Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his country is ready to be more assertive in guarding against what he says might be an attempt by China to use force to attain its diplomatic goals.
But a top retired Chinese diplomat said any move by Tokyo to contain China could amount to an attempt to conceal ulterior motives in the region and prove to be "extremely dangerous".
Abe, in a newspaper interview published yesterday, said he had realised during recent meetings with Southeast Asian leaders that the region was looking for leadership from Tokyo in terms of security amid China's more forthright diplomacy.
"There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law. But if China opts to take that path, then it won't be able to emerge peacefully," he told The Wall Street Journal.
"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."
Meanwhile, China took issue with a Japanese media report saying Abe had approved a policy of shooting down foreign drones that ignore warnings to leave its airspace.
"Don't underestimate the Chinese army's resolute will and determination to protect China's territorial sovereignty," Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on the ministry's website. "If Japan does resort to enforcement measures like shooting down aircraft, that is a serious provocation to us, an act of war. We will undertake decisive action to strike back, with every consequence borne by the side that caused the trouble."
Former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan , addressing a forum in Beijing, said Japan hoped for international backing to curb China's actions in the region, media reported.
Tang said any attempt to contain China either amounted to a distorted view of China or "the rendering of an image of the 'Chinese menace' to achieve an ulterior political goal".
"I hope it's the former, because if it's the latter, not only is it futile, it is also extremely dangerous," he said.