The defence ministry yesterday lashed out at Japan's plans to boost military spending, accusing Tokyo of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security.
China "resolutely opposes" the five-year defence plan adopted by Japan on Tuesday, spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement posted on the ministry's website. Japan "continues to deny its history of [second world war] aggression, challenge the post-war order, and harm the feelings of the people of those victimised nations".
The strongly worded statement marks the latest salvo in the string of accusations over who is responsible for a sharp rise in tensions in the East China Sea.
It also contrasted a rare courtesy call described as "friendly" on Friday between Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Cheng Yonghua , China's ambassador to Tokyo.
China's military has taken an increasingly hawkish stance amid a bitter dispute with Tokyo over uninhabited islands in the sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Japan's nationalisation of the islands in September last year sparked violent demonstrations in several Chinese cities.
In the months since, Chinese patrol vessels have routinely confronted Japanese ships in the area, sparking international fears of an incident.
Under the arrangement adopted on Tuesday, Japan will raise defence spending by 5 per cent over the next five years to purchase its first surveillance drones, more jet fighters and naval destroyers, and to set up an amphibious unit similar to the US Marines.
"Where is Japan's military and security policy heading?" Geng said. "Its Asian neighbours and the international community have every reason to have serious worries."
Broader defence programme guidelines also adopted on Tuesday say Japan is "gravely concerned" about China's growing maritime and military presence in the East China Sea, and its "high-handed" approach. Last month, Beijing said aircraft entering a vast zone over the sea must identify themselves and follow its instructions.
Geng accused Japan of maintaining a "cold-war mentality" that runs counter to the trends of peaceful development.
"We urge Japan to reflect deeply on its history, strictly adhere to its commitment to peaceful development, and take concrete measures to improve relations with its neighbours to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and development," he said.