China says Japanese defence paper ‘ignores facts’
China has lashed out at Japan over an official defence report by Tokyo, calling it untruthful and wrongly labelling Beijing a threat, state media reported on Friday.
The new Japanese defence white paper is the first since a long-simmering dispute with China and Taiwan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea heated up last year.
It “deliberately ignores facts and plays up ‘China’s military threat’”, the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng as saying.
The document, approved by Tokyo on Tuesday, is an annual report on Japan’s defence capabilities and regional security.
It rebuked Beijing for behaviour Tokyo said could trigger an incident.
“China... has taken action described as coercive, which includes risky behaviour,” the report said.
Examples included intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters and violation of airspace “and even dangerous actions that could cause a contingency”, it said.
China has the world’s largest military and has dramatically increased its capabilities in recent years, with its first aircraft carrier going into service last year.
Geng called China’s conduct legitimate in safeguarding national sovereignty and said that Japan’s paper made groundless accusations.
He also described China as being on a peaceful development path.
Japan administers the Senkaku islands, though Beijing claims them for itself as the Diaoyu and Taiwan also declares ownership.
Tensions have spiked in the past year and have led to Chinese and Japanese ships and aircraft playing cat and mouse with each other.
The white paper said Japanese fighters were scrambled more than 300 times against Chinese planes flying near Japan’s airspace in the year to March, a new record.
It reiterated accusations a Chinese frigate locked weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese destroyer in January - a claim Beijing has previously denied.
Since coming to power in December, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cast doubt on Japan’s commitment to pacifism enshrined in a constitution imposed on the country by the United States after the Second World War.
Abe’s calls for constitutional revision have raised the ire of neighbouring China, South Korea and North Korea, where memories of Japanese military and colonial occupation remain sensitive.