China yesterday launched a series of blistering attacks on key rival Japan after a defense paper approved by Tokyo criticized Beijing’s military buildup and growing territorial assertiveness.
China’s foreign ministry branded the paper “irresponsible,” insisting Beijing’s drive to modernize its forces was entirely defensive, and expressed its “strong dissatisfaction.”
State news agency Xinhua went further, accusing Japan of “China bashing” and warning the document could jeopardize relations between the two countries, while the defense ministry also issued a statement condemning the paper.
Japan’s annual defense report, released this week, voiced concern over China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean and what it called the “opaqueness” of Beijing’s military budget.
“The Japanese 2011 defense white paper made irresponsible comments on China’s national defense construction. China expresses its strong dissatisfaction,” foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu (馬朝旭) said.
“China’s development is offering significant opportunities to all countries — including Japan — and China has not been, and never will be a threat to any other country,” Ma said.
China broke off all high-level contact with Tokyo in September last year after Japan detained a Chinese fishing boat captain whose vessel collided with Japanese coast guard patrol ships in waters claimed by both sides.
The row between Asia’s two biggest economies was their worst in years and undermined painstaking recent efforts to improve relations marked by decades of mistrust stemming from Japan’s 1930s invasion of China.
The Chinese skipper was released after more than two weeks and the two countries, which have deep trade ties, have been trying to mend fences.
Japan’s defense report used a Japanese word that can be translated as “overbearing” or as “assertive” to describe China’s stance over its “conflicting interests with neighboring countries, including Japan.”
The paper also said China’s defense spending was not transparent, saying the budget publicly announced by China “is widely seen as only part of what Beijing actually spends for military purposes.”
“Opaqueness in its defense policies and military movements are concerns for the region, including Japan, and for the international community, and we need to carefully analyze them,” it said.
Xinhua called the claims “groundless” and said the report “dutifully carries out its China-bashing tradition, nitpicking at China’s defense expenditure growth and military modernization in the manner of a back seat driver.”
Earlier this year, China announced military spending would rise 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan (US$91.7 billion) this year after funding slowed last year.