Japan is ready to counter China if it resorts to force in the pursuit of its geopolitical interests, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says.
Mr Abe told the Wall Street Journal there were "concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law." He said if China opts to take that path, it won't be able to emerge peacefully.
"So it shouldn't take that path, and many nations expect Japan to strongly express that view. And they hope that as a result, China will take responsible action in the international community."
In the interview, he said he had "realised that Japan is expected to exert leadership not just on the economic front, but also in the field of security in the Asia-Pacific."
Mr Abe said Japan had become too inward-looking over the past 15 years, but as it regained economic strength "we'd like to contribute more to making the world a better place".
The paper said he made clear one way Japan would "contribute" would be countering China in Asia.
For more than a year, relations between Beijing and Tokyo have been chilled by a territorial dispute in the East China Sea where China claims a small, uninhabited archipelago administered by Japan under the name of Senkaku. Beijing calls it Diaoyu.
One of Mr Abe's first decisions as prime minister has been to increase Japan's defence budget for the first time in 11 years, AFP reports.
Tokyo also plans to hold a large air and sea exercise in November to strengthen the island's defences, and as a display of might intended for the Chinese.