BEIJING: China on Thursday urged Tokyo to avoid “crippling regional peace and security”, after the lower house of Japan’s parliament passed bills that could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since World War II.
“It is fully justified to ask if Japan is going to give up its exclusively defense-oriented policy,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to… refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability,” Hua said in the statement posted on the ministry’s website.
Hua described the passing of the bills as “an unprecedented move since the Second World War”.
Japanese forces launched a full-scale invasion of China in 1937 and the wartime history between the Asian powers still heavily colors their relations today.
Beijing — which is also embroiled in a territorial row with Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea — regularly accuses the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of showing insufficient contrition for the conflict.
Hua referred to the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in its conflict with China, which Beijing calls “the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.”
“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history,” she added.
The vote on Japan’s military marks a victory for Abe and other nationalists, who have ignored popular anger in a bid to break what they see as the shackles of the US-imposed constitution.
China’s official Xinhua news agency condemned the move, saying it meant “a nightmare scenario has come a step closer for Japanese people and neighboring nations.”
If passed, the bill will “tarnish the reputation of a nation that has earned international respect for its pacifist Constitution over a period of nearly seven decades,” it said.
The remarks come despite attempts to improve relations between China and Japan, with China’s President Xi Jinping meeting twice with Abe. Before that, high level meetings between the neighbors were suspended for two years.
Japan’s National Security Advisor Shotaro Yachi met with China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi in Beijing on Thursday.
Yang, China’s top diplomat, told him Beijing was “preparing for high level political dialogue between the two countries,” without making clear whether he was referring to a meeting between Xi and Abe.