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Japan military holds drill as its role expands

GOTEMBA, Japan —
Japan’s military showcased its ability to defend remote islands Tuesday, as its role expands at home and abroad under new defense policies instituted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that have divided the nation.

The military began large-scale annual ‘‘Fire Power’’ exercises at the foot of Mount Fuji aimed at repelling a hypothetical invasion of far-off Japanese islands, defense officials said.

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Lieutenant Kunikazu Takahashi, spokesman for Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, said the exercises, which last until Sunday, follow new defense guidelines that emphasize island defense.

The defense plans, approved in December, reflect a shift in Japan’s defense priorities from its northern reaches near Russia to the East China Sea, where Tokyo and Beijing are locked in a dispute over a chain of uninhabited islands. Under the guidelines, Japan is setting up an amphibious unit similar to the US Marines to respond quickly to any invasion of those islands.

‘‘We believe such arrangements can discourage any foreign invasion,’’ Takahashi said in an interview during the exercise. ‘‘It would be best if we can defend our land without fighting.’’

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