05:54 GMT26 January 2020
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    After Japan offered to dispatch its Self-Defense Forces to the South China Sea in a discussion with the US, China responded by warning that it will be on high alert for Japanese military intervention there.

    China is "on high alert" for any intervention by the Japanese in the South China Sea, after Japanese President Shinzo Abe last week told US President Barack Obama that he will consider sending Japan's Self-Defense Forces there, Xinhua reported on Friday.

    "China firmly safeguards navigation freedom of various countries in the South China Sea in accordance with international laws," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a press briefing on Friday.

    "In the meantime, China is strongly against any country using the excuse of navigation and overflight freedom to engage in activities threatening the sovereignty and security of other nations, and facilitating regional militarization," said Hong.

    Japanese President Abe made the remark to Obama on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on Thursday, reported the Japan Times.

    "With regard to activity by the Self-Defense Forces in the South China Sea, I will consider it while focusing on what effect the situation has on Japan's security," Abe reportedly said.

    A Japanese government spokesman confirmed Abe's comments on Friday, but denied that it represented a change in policy, and sought to allay fears that Japan is making a military return to the region by taking part in what the US terms "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea.

    "We have no plans for our Self-Defense Forces to take part in US freedom of navigation operations," said the spokesman, and added that Japan is not conducting nor preparing to conduct patrols in the South China Sea. 

     The spokesman also said that the Japanese leader expressed support for the US decision to last month send its USS Lassen destroyer within 12 nautical miles [21km] of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago. China claims the islands as its territory, but some of them are also subject to territorial claims from other countries in the Pacific region. China called the incursion by the destroyer "blatant provocation," and complained to the US ambassador in China.


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