Japan's defense minister urged China yesterday to be more open about its fast-growing military spending amid strained ties between the two Asian powers.
"We need more transparency for the military expenditure by the Chinese government," Yoshinori Ono said in a speech.
His remarks echoed resentment among some Japanese leaders that Beijing has been taking advantage of development aid from Tokyo in order to boost its military strength, which Japan now sees as a threat.
Officially, China's military spending accounts for about 1.5 percent of its GDP but it is estimated to be much higher, Ono said without elaborating.
"China's military expenditure has been increasing 10 percent annually for the 17th consecutive year," he said. "Japan's military spending is just 0.8 percent of its GDP. This shows how Japan is a peace-oriented country."
Locked in dispute
The two countries have recently been locked in disputes over Japan's wartime past.
Despite public demonstrations decrying the homages, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insists on visiting the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo that honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 top war criminals buried at the same site.
China also opposes Japan's bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
But Ono said Japan should maintain amicable ties with China on all fronts.
"China is a country which we should keep good relations with," he said.
"In Japan it is said our relationship [with China] is cold in politics but very hot in the economy. We have to make both of them very hot."
China said last week that its diplomatic ties with Japan remained at the "most difficult stage" since the two normalized relations in 1972.