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Japan military holds drill as its role expands

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Photo - Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Type-89 armored combat vehicles flare up a smoke screen during an annual live firing exercise at Higashi Fuji range in Gotemba, southwest of Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Type-89 armored combat vehicles flare up a smoke screen during an annual live firing exercise at Higashi Fuji range in Gotemba, southwest of Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
News,World,Japan,Asia

GOTEMBA, Japan (AP) — Japan's military is showcasing its ability to defend remote islands, as its role expands at home and abroad under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The military began large-scale annual "Fire Power" exercises on Tuesday at the foot of Mount Fuji. Defense officials said the exercises, which last until Sunday, are aimed at repelling a hypothetical invasion of far-off Japanese islands.

Officials said the exercises reflect new defense guidelines that emphasize island defense. Both Japan and China are pressing their claims to a group of disputed uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Abe's Cabinet approved in July a reinterpretation of Japan's war-renouncing constitution, which was drafted under U.S. direction after World War II, to allow the military to defend foreign countries, sharply dividing public opinion.

Fighter jets, attack helicopters and tanks, guided missile systems and other artillery fired Tuesday at targets at the base of Mount Fuji, where soldiers demonstrated tactics to fight off foreign invaders.

The live-fire exercises involve 2,300 troops, 20 aircraft and 80 tanks and armored vehicles, among other equipment.

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