Japan defense paper tough on China

By Chen Heying Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-22 0:33:01

Report maliciously hypes China threat: FM

Japan's recently revised defense report, which called China's maritime claims "coercive," signals Japan's increasingly hard-line position against China, analysts said Tuesday. 

Observers also warn of the possibility of a more serious confrontation between the two countries as the defense paper comes only a few days after Japan's lower chamber approved the country's new security bills, which allow troops to fight overseas for the first time since the end of World War II.

In response to the defense paper, China's foreign ministry said Tuesday the report "maliciously hyped the 'China threat.'"

"We solemnly urge Japan to stop deliberately creating tension and provoking confrontation, and to contribute to regional peace and stability instead," said a foreign ministry statement.

China's defense ministry also said the paper has made improper comments on China's rightful national defense and military build-up, playing up military threats imposed by China and defaming the Chinese military.

The Japanese cabinet on Tuesday approved the 2015 defense white paper, which describes the security situation surrounding Japan as "increasingly tough."

In the 400-plus page document, Japan's defense ministry said "China has continued so-called assertive measures, including attempts to alter the status quo by coercive measures," the Kyodo News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Gao Hong, a deputy director with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that this "is a tactic Japan has employed to hype the 'China threat theory' for years, in a bid to justify its build-up of military strength."

The timing of the report, just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition pushed the security bills through on Thursday, despite overwhelming opposition from the public and opposition parties, is meant to appease the public and regain support, said Hu Lingyuan, a professor with the Center for Japanese Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The security bills will allow the Japanese military to go into battle to protect its allies - also known as "collective self-defense" - even if there is no direct threat to Japan or its people.

Hawkish complaints

The white paper also demands that China halt construction of a new offshore platform that could be used for "military purposes" near the median line between China's coastline and that of Japan in the East China Sea. It says that Japan has "repeatedly protested Beijing's unilateral action."

Japan's defense ministry added the demand to the defense review after hawkish members of the ruling party complained that its original draft was too soft on China in early July, a ministry official was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Separately, the white paper also for the first time cited international concerns about China's "rapid" and "large-scale" reclamation of rock reefs in the Nansha Islands, calling it an apparent attempt to force a change in the status quo and bolster claim over nearly the whole of the South China Sea.

The strongly-worded remarks in the revised report demonstrate Japan's increasingly hard-line position on China as Tokyo has been emboldened by its grand alliance with the US, Gao noted.

Japan may be hoping that China becomes distracted by chaos in the South China Sea, which will relieve tension with Japan, Li Jie, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times.

US President Barack Obama called the US-Japan partnership "indestructible" in April when the two countries vowed to strengthen global military cooperation and counter threats to the "international order."

Stronger stance

Tokyo's stronger stance against China could be reflected in its future actions, said analysts.

If Japan's defense force meddles in disputes with China in the East China Sea, which were previously dealt with through diplomatic channels, China will definitely fight back, Gao said.

Besides, Japan is likely to cooperate with countries in the South China Sea to contain China, now that the security bills empower Japan's Self-Defense Force to exercise the right to collective self-defense, he said.

"This cooperation will be conducted on a regular basis, going beyond occasional drills," Gao noted, citing the dispatch of patrol boats and surveillance aircraft as examples.

The Philippines and Japan held their first joint naval exercises in the South China Sea in May, following a pact in January between the two countries aimed at improving security cooperation.

Japan believes that the US-Japanese alliance will be less dependable as China rises and the US declines to a degree, which is the major incentive for Japan to push forward security bills, read a commentary in the Singapore-based Lianhe Zaobao newspaper on Monday.

Whether the US is capable of controlling Japan will present China's diplomatic strategy toward Japan with uncertainties and more challenges, since China depended on Sino-US ties to adjust Sino-Japanese ties, the commentary said.

Xinhua contributed to this story

Posted in: Diplomacy

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