China is trying to change region by force, warns Japan
Strategic report blasts 'high-handed' actions, but Beijing accuses Tokyo of hyping the 'so-called threat' in a bid to raise tensions
China is trying to change the regional status quo by force based on claims that contradict international law, Japan said in the first defence white paper to be published under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government.
The report released yesterday was harshly critical of China's actions in waters near East China Sea islets claimed by both countries and prompted a sharp response from Beijing.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman said Japan was exaggerating the so-called "China threat" to "artificially create regional tension and confrontation".
The Japanese Defence Ministry said in its annual report: "In cases where China's interests conflict with those of neighbouring countries, including Japan, it has taken measures that have been called high-handed, including trying to change the status quo by force."
Ruling party politicians called for the Japanese military to beef up its ability to respond.
The report comes as Japan overhauls its midterm defence strategy after Abe increased the defence budget for the first time in 11 years.
It said: "China is expanding and increasing its military and security activities, and combined with the lack of transparency, this is a cause for concern in the region and the international community," it said.
China announced in March defence spending would rise 10.7 per cent this year to 740.6 billion yuan (HK$928 billion).
But Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing before the white paper was released: "Japan has been hyping the so-called China threat and creating regional tensions to mislead international opinion. It will not help solve the issue."
She added that China was "adhering to the path of peaceful development".
Xinhua echoed the sentiment yesterday and accused Abe of "playing with fire" by "making irresponsible remarks".
It said: "Since taking office last December, Abe has repeatedly made remarks seen as attempts to whitewash Japan's wartime atrocity and challenge the post-war world order.
"By indulging the rightist tilt and engaging in costly territorial disputes with its neighbours, the Japanese government has essentially killed its proclaimed dream of becoming a normal nation."
Lian Degui , deputy director of Japanese studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, commented that Tokyo's criticism of China was a reflection of the bilateral tensions between the two nations in recent years.
"Neither side can find common ground to improve their relationship," said Lian.
"The Japanese side is trying to play a more important role in international affairs by having a stronger military force, and to realise this goal, it has to highlight the threat of China to intensify the international support."
The white paper included a description of Japan's efforts to bolster defence ties with the US military, including through joint training exercises.
These included last month's "Dawn Blitz" island defence drill in California.
Additional reporting by Reuters