China has lashed out at Japan over an official defense report by Tokyo, calling it untruthful and wrongly labeling Beijing a threat, state media reported on Friday.
The new Japanese defense white paper is the first since a long-simmering dispute with Taiwan and China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea heated up last year.
It “deliberately ignores facts and plays up ‘China’s military threat.’” the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman Geng Yansheng (耿雁生) as saying.
The document, approved by Tokyo on Tuesday, is an annual report on Japan’s defense capabilities and regional security.
It rebuked Beijing for behavior Tokyo said could trigger an incident.
“China ... has taken action described as coercive, which includes risky behavior,” the report said.
Examples included intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters and violation of airspace “and even dangerous actions that could cause a contingency,” it said.
China has the world’s largest military and has dramatically increased its capabilities in recent years, with its first aircraft carrier going into service last year.
Geng called China’s conduct legitimate in safeguarding national sovereignty and said that Japan’s paper made groundless accusations.
He also described China as being on a peaceful development path.
Japan administers the Senkaku Islands, though they are also claimed by China and Taiwan, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands (釣魚台).
Tensions have spiked in the past year and have led to Chinese and Japanese ships and aircraft playing cat and mouse with each other.
The white paper said Japanese fighters were scrambled more than 300 times against Chinese planes flying near Japan’s airspace in the year to March, a new record.
It reiterated accusations a Chinese frigate locked weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese destroyer in January — a claim Beijing has previously denied.
Since coming to power in December last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cast doubt on Japan’s commitment to pacifism enshrined in a constitution imposed on the country by the US after the World War II.
Abe’s calls for constitutional revision have raised the ire of neighboring China, South Korea and North Korea, where memories of Japanese military and colonial occupation remain sensitive.