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July 23, 2017

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Japan defense policy closely watched: Ma

TAIPEI--Taiwan is keeping a close eye on Japan's next moves after the neighboring country decided earlier this week to overturn a post-World War II ban on overseas engagements by its military, President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday.

Japan's removal of the 60-year military restriction now allows "collective self-defense" — military action in defense of its allies — and has caught the attention of many countries, including the Republic of China, Ma said.

The president said one issue of great concern is whether Japan's decision will result in a deterioration of its relations with China, particularly in light of the East China Sea territorial disputes, which have escalated over the past two years.

It would be terrible if both sides moved toward military conflict, and it would also be difficult for the United States to stay out of the fray, Ma said during a visit to Central America.

The U.S. has been very cautious in its handling of Asian affairs because it no longer has as strong a presence in the region as it did years ago, Ma said.

With China's rapid rise in recent years and Japan's adherence to its own agenda, the U.S. has been forced to more carefully examine the situation, which is complicated by the fact that many Asian countries rely on the U.S. for security and on China for trade, according to the president.

The R.O.C.'s role in this conundrum could be to maintain its pacifist stance in an effort to keep the conflicts from escalating, he said.

"We could play a very positive role," Ma said, mentioning his East China Sea Peace Initiative as a means of de-escalating the territorial disputes.

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