Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Japan beefing up defense of disputed islands, report says

COUNTERING CHINA Tokyo will conduct joint exercises with the US to strengthen its ability to repel a possible Chinese invasion of the Diaoyutais

AP , TOKYO

Japan's military is stepping up its defense of islands also claimed by China and Taiwan, and will propose talks with India on diplomatic and security issues as part of attempts to counter China's growing military might in Asia, a report said yesterday.

The report came days after Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Beijing poses "a considerable military threat" because it has nuclear weapons and is boosting its military spending. China called the remarks irresponsible and groundless.

According to Japan's largest business newspaper, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's Self-Defense Forces will conduct joint exercises with the US Marine Corps this month and develop short-range torpedoes tailored for combat in shallow waters to strengthen its ability to repulse a possible Chinese invasion of the disputed East China Sea islands.

Japan envisions a scenario in which China would invade the islets, called the Diaoyutais (釣魚台) in China and Taiwan and the Senkaku in Japan, the newspaper said.

About 125 Japanese troops will be sent to San Diego, California, in January for joint exercises with US Marines simulating a landing on an occupied island, the report said.

Self-Defense Forces officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the report, but earlier said the two countries plan joint training by the end of March.

The Nihon Keizai also said Japan will propose bilateral talks with India on diplomatic and security issues -- and on holding regular visits by their respective defense ministers -- in part to discuss ways to curb China's growing influence in Asia.

Aso will also raise the issue on a trip to India starting Tuesday, it said. He is slated to meet President Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and is also scheduled to visit Pakistan.

Japan plans to propose regular discussions between the Japanese and Indian foreign ministers on both nations' bids for permanent UN Security Council seats, the creation of a pan-Asian economic and strategic community, and military affairs in Asia, it said.

Aso also will invite Indian Defense Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee to visit Japan in the spring, the Nihon Keizai said.

Japan-China tensions have grown along with Beijing's spectacular rise as an economic and military power.

The two countries are sparring over issues including territorial and resource disputes, history and Japan's military alliance with the US.

Relations soured further several days ago, when Beijing denounced Tokyo for claiming that Chinese spies drove a Japanese consulate employee to commit suicide last year in Shanghai.

Tokyo has given no further details, but Japanese media say the consulate employee was a communications specialist who took his life after Chinese agents pressured him for secret information. Beijing has denied the allegations.

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