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Japan military practices defending remote islands with public opinion split over expanded role

  • APTOPIX Japan Military Exercise-1.jpg

    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) (The Associated Press)

  • APTOPIX Japan Military Exercise-2.jpg

    A member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force launches a hand-held anti-tank rocket during an annual live firing exercise at Higashi Fuji range in Gotemba, southwest of Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) (The Associated Press)

  • Japan Military Exercise-3.jpg

    A Type-10 tank of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force fires at targets during an annual live firing exercise at Higashi Fuji range in Gotemba, southwest of Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) (The Associated Press)

  • ee88fdcb885f35205d0f6a706700dcf1.jpg

    Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Type-10 tank fires at a target during an annual live firing exercise at Higashi Fuji range in Gotemba, southwest of Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) (The Associated Press)

  • Japan Military Exercise-5.jpg

    The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's anti-landmine missile is launched during an annual live firing exercise at Higashi Fuji range in Gotemba, southwest of Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) (The Associated Press)

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 say 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 rival claims to a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Abe's Cabinet has approved a reinterpretation of Japan's war-renouncing constitution to allow the military to defend foreign countries, sharply dividing public opinion.