A senior Chinese official yesterday accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of exploiting the territorial dispute in the East China Sea to amend the country's security policy.
In an apparent attempt to pre-empt Abe's own speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, former deputy foreign minister Fu Ying told a special panel on the sidelines of the annual forum in Singapore that Abe's denial of Japan's history would intensify concerns at the direction in which he was taking the country.
"My observation is that after he came to office he didn't show interest addressing the Diaoyu Islands dispute. Instead he has made it into a bigger issue - that is, China as a country is posing a threat to Japan as a country," said Fu, now chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress.
"He has made such a myth. And with that as an excuse, he is amending the security policy of Japan. That's worrying for the region and for China."
The Diaoyu Islands are claimed by mainland China, Taiwan and Japan, which calls them the Senkaku Islands.
Fu's comments were widely seen as a response to Abe's call during the forum, which brings together senior defence officials across the region, for a greater regional security role for Japan.
Fu was speaking ahead of Abe's keynote speech at a special debate on the forum's sidelines. Her fellow panellists included US Senator Ben Cardin, Singapore ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh and Indian politician Tarun Vijay.
She also suggested that America's involvement in recent tensions between China and Vietnam over the South China Sea was unnecessary.
After Cardin raised the issue of China's unilateral move to position a giant oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam's coast, Fu said Beijing and Hanoi would resolve the dispute bilaterally.
"I don't think Ben can go there and solve the problem for us," she said.
With tensions over maritime disputes between China and its neighbours continuing, discussions at the three-day forum are expected to be focused on Beijing's increasingly assertive approach in the region.
Beijing said it would promote its own security theory in Asia at the forum. The Chinese delegation was headed by Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong , deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.