China’s military has condemned Japan’s plans to boost defence spending, accusing Tokyo of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Geng Yansheng, defence ministry spokesman, said China “resolutely opposes” Japan’s five-year defence plan, accusing its Asian neighbour of maintaining a “Cold War mentality”.
Geng accused Japan of manufacturing fears of Chinese aggression and denying responsibility for having invaded China and other countries in the last century.
Japan “continues to deny its history of World War II aggression, challenge the post-war order, and harm the feelings of the people of those victimised nations,” Geng said.
“We urge Japan to reflect deeply on its history, strictly adhere to its commitment to peaceful development, and take concrete measures to improve relations with its neighbours to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and development,” Geng said.
Geng was referring to Japan’s imperial occupation of China, starting with the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, to Japan’s surrender after the end of World War II in 1945. Japan has refused to apologise for the atrocities committed by its soldiers during that period.
The statement marks the latest salvo in the ongoing string of accusations over who is responsible for a sharp rise in tensions in the East China Sea.
Last Tuesday, Japan said it would lift military spending by 2.6 percent over five years, buying early-warning planes, beach-assault vehicles and troop-carrying aircraft.
It was seen as the clearest sign since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office a year ago that he wants to raise Japan’s military profile to meet what he says is a threat from China’s rapid military build-up.
China’s military has taken an increasingly hawkish stance amid a bitter dispute with Tokyo over uninhabited islands in the sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
Japan’s nationalisation of the islands in September 2012 sparked violent demonstrations in several Chinese cities.
In the months since, Chinese patrol vessels have routinely confronted Japanese ships in the area.
Under the new Japanese defence plan, the country will purchase its first surveillance drones, more jet fighters and naval destroyers, and set up an amphibious unit similar to the US Marines in the next five years.
Broader defence programme guidelines, also adopted on Tuesday, say Japan is “gravely concerned” about China’s growing maritime and military presence in the East China Sea, and its lack of transparency and “high-handed” approach.
Late last month, China said all aircraft entering a vast zone over the East China sea must identify themselves and follow China’s instructions.