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    Japan to Beef Up Military in Response to China: Panel

    Japan will set up a new amphibious military unit and deploy surveillance drones as part of its new defense plan in response to China's growing military power.

    The proposals were included in drafts of new security strategy and defense guidelines released Wednesday. They are set to be approved by the Cabinet next week.

    Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said the new plans will be "historic" in helping shape the country's national security direction.



    "As the security environment surrounding our country is increasingly getting severe, the Abe cabinet has been working on restructuring defense and security policy with our determination to protect the lives and property of people of Japan under any circumstances. At its core, I am certain that the National Security Strategy which we studied with you and new defense guidelines will be historical documents which will shape the direction of our nation's defense and security."



    The drafts warn of what is called China's attempts to change the regional status quo by force. They specifically mention Beijing's new air defense zone in the East China Sea, which includes islands also claimed by Japan.

    To help defend the area, the plan calls for the creation of amphibious forces at Naha Air Base on the southern island of Okinawa. It also proposes introducing surveillance drones and early-warning aircraft at the base.



    The defense strategy says Japan should respond "calmly and resolutely to the rapid expansion and step-up of China's maritime and air activities."

    Responding to the Japanese defense plans at a daily briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei called the accusations "unreasonable."



    "China is closely watching Japan's security strategy and policy direction. Japan's unreasonable criticism of China's normal maritime and air activities and hyping up of a China threat have hidden political motives. We urge Japan to pay attention to Asian neighbors' security concerns, comply with the historical trend, follow the path of peaceful development, and make due efforts to improve relations between the two countries and maintain regional stability.''



    The Japanese defense plans also spoke of worsening regional security. In such an environment, the texts said Japan should strengthen its own military capabilities, while continuing to deepen its alliance with the United States and others. It also proposes relaxing a ban on the export, development and production of Japanese weapons.

    Since taking power last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to strengthen Japan's military, boost its global security role, and seek to revise its pacifist constitution.

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