TOKYO - Japan's defence chief vowed Friday to press ahead with updating the country's military at a time of Chinese expansion, and called for a rebalancing of Tokyo's role in its security relations with the United States.
Itsunori Onodera, speaking ahead of a meeting with his US opposite number next week, said his ministry was hastening the compilation of a new defence model.
"The security environment surrounding Japan has dramatically changed over he past few years," he said.
"This is because of the modernisation of our neighbour's military and their expansion in terms of both quantity and quality," Onodera said, in an apparent reference to China that stopped short of mentioning the country by name.
Onodera said the new defence model will feature plans to introduce drones for surveillance of remote territory, and a special amphibious unit designed to protect southern islands.
Japan has become chary of its place in the world at a time when China's naval activity is on the rise and as unpredictable North Korea continues its missile and nuclear programmes.
Onedera's remarks come before he and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida hold Japan-US security talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on October 3 in Tokyo.
Onodera said Japan should consider boosting its offensive power to even up a relationship he characterised as one in which Tokyo has traditionally carried the shield and Washington wielded the weapon.
"We have to swiftly discuss how we should respond to ... eventualities under the Japan-US guidelines," he said. "That's an urgent task."
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to boost Japan's security role on the world stage.
"Japan should not be the weak link in the regional and global security framework where the US plays a leading role," Abe said at the Hudson Institute in New York.
Japan's US-imposed post-World War II constitution stripped the nation of its right to wage war. The current "interpretation" of the document forbids Tokyo from using force in all but the narrowest of cases.
Moves to beef up its military are greeted with suspicion by neighbouring countries that bore the brunt of Japan's 20th Century militarism.