SINGAPORE - Japan will not use its growing military strength to threaten other countries, its defence minister said on Saturday, while affirming its aim to prioritise diplomatic efforts and dialogue to avert misunderstandings.
"We do not seek rivalry or conflict," Yasukazu Hamada said in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a security conference in Singapore with 600 delegates from 49 countries.
Japanese aggression before and during World War Two is still a cause of tension in relations with some countries, especially South Korea and China.
The United States in 1947 imposed a constitution on Japan that renounces war but in recent years governments have been boosting defence capacities and in December, Japan unveiled its biggest military build-up since the war.
Hamada said Japan did not aim to establish military power to pose a threat to others.
The defence ministry would pursue diplomatic efforts first, he said.
"As a nation that generally desire peace, we aim to enhance our own and original deterrent capabilities and promote the resolution to differences in interest and opinions through dialogue," he said.
Under a five-year defence, which will double defence spending, Japan will acquire longer-range missiles that it hopes will deter China from resorting to force in East Asia.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government worries that Russia's attack on Ukraine could embolden China to attack neighbouring Taiwan.
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi and Tim Kelly; Editing by Robert Birsel)