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China urges Japan to dispel 'suspicions' about active military role

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BEIJING, May 16 (Yonhap) -- China on Friday raised doubts over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's true intentions of revising his nation's war-renouncing constitution to allow the Japanese military to use its military force overseas, calling on Japan to clear up the "suspicions" by its Asian neighbors.

Abe moved closer to revising the country's pacifist constitution that bans Japan from using its military force overseas after receiving a government report on Thursday that calls for Tokyo to rewrite the U.S.-imposed post-World War II constitution.

Abe reportedly said Friday that he wants to discuss the issue with South Korea and China through diplomatic channels.

Asked about Abe's hope for discussions, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying told reporters, "We are open to negotiating this issue with diplomatic channels, but, due to historical reasons, any directions in Japan's military field is highly watched by its Asian neighbors and the international community."

"Since Shinzo Abe took office, he has taken a series of unprecedented actions in the field of the military. So, it's easy to understand why China, South Korea and the international community are highly vigilant about this issue," Hua said.

Hua called for Japan to "take more concrete actions to remove the suspicions by its Asian neighbors and the international community on this issue."

A key article of the Japanese constitution renounces war as a sovereign right and limits the role of the Japanese military to self-defense. Abe has pushed to lift the ban on so-called "collective self-defense," citing China's growing military build-up and North Korea's nuclear threat.

South Korea and China, which both suffered from Japan's atrocities during World War II, have been wary of Japan's move to boost its military.

In Seoul on Thursday, South Korea's foreign ministry urged Japan to "uphold the spirit of Japan's pacifist constitution, maintain transparency and contribute to stability and peace in the region."

"Furthermore, in dealing with defense and security issues, Japan must make efforts to dispel neighboring countries' doubts and concerns arising from historical matters," the South Korean ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. has supported Japan's move to boost its military role in Asia.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that Washington "welcomes" debates in Japan on revising its pacifist constitution.

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