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Japan PM Abe calls in Davos for military restraint in Asia

The Japanese prime minister has told the World Economic Forum in Davos that Asia needs military restraint to boost economic growth. Abe's keynote speech kicked off the four-day gathering in Switzerland.

Global economic leaders descend on Davos

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a keynote speech at the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday by appealing to the high-profile policy makers and business participants to support military restraint in Asia.

"We must lay down rules that promote actions based on the international law of the sea," Prime Minister Abe said. "Only then, I believe, can we achieve growth and prosperity in Asia, where all of can realize our great potential."

Although Abe did not name China in his appeal, his speech referred apparently to a recent territorial dispute over a chain of islands in the East China Sea, which has caused renewed tensions between the two nations. Japan controls the islands - known in Japanese as Senkaku and as Diaoyu in Chinese - but China has repeatedly attempted to reclaim them.

In recent months, Beijing has required all aircraft in the East China Sea to identify themselves to Chinese authorities, including those flying near the disputed islands.

"The dividend of growth must not be wasted on military expansion," Abe said. "We must use it to invest in innovation and human capital, which will further boost growth in the region."

Abe defends shrine visit

Deep scars remain in China and South Korea from Japan's brutal militarism during WWII, which led to the death of millions of civilians. Abe recently upset China when he visited a high-profile shrine which commemorates the Japan's 2.5 million war dead.

On Wednesday, Abe reiterated that his visit was "something quite natural for a leader of any country in the world" to do, adding that it had not been done to hurt China or South Korea.

"We believe that [South] Korea and China are very important neighbors and [South] Korea shares the same value system and they are a free democratic country," Abe said.

Chinese academic, Wu Xinbo, who reputably has view close to the Chinese leadership, told another Davos panel that the Japanese leader as a "troublemaker."

The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzlerand, began on Wednesday and is scheduled to continue until Saturday.

Over 40 heads of state and government were expected to attend the networking conference, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is to hold a speech on Thursday about his country's nuclear program and investment opportunities for foreign countries.

In an interview on Swiss television on Wednesday, Rouhani said troubled relations between Iran and much of the Western world could be overcome with hard work.

"This effort is necessary to create confidence on both sides. Iran is in fact stretching out its hand in peace and freindship to all countries of the world and wants friendly, good relations with all countries in the world," the president said.

Iran is facing a period of negotiations with the West to conclude a permanent agreement on Tehran's nuclear program, which many Western countries believe is aimed at developing weapons.

kms/ipj (AFP, Reuters)

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