TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday slammed Beijing’s bid to reclaim land in the South China Sea as a “coercive attempt” to force through sweeping maritime claims, in a defense paper that comes as Tokyo tries to expand the role of its military.
Tokyo said China was acting “unilaterally and without compromise,” as it also highlighted concern about North Korea’s nuclear program and Russian moves in violence-wracked Ukraine.
The white paper accused Beijing of “raising concerns among the international community” in ramped-up criticism from last year’s report, an annual summary of Japan’s official view on defense matters.
“China, particularly over maritime issues, continues to act in an assertive manner, including coercive attempts at changing the status quo, and is poised to fulfill its unilateral demands without compromise,” said the report titled “Defense of Japan.”
China is locked in disputes with several neighbors over its claims to almost the entire South China Sea and is currently pursuing a rapid program of artificial island construction in the region.
It is also locked in a separate dispute with Japan over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands–which it calls the Diaoyus–in the East China Sea, as Chinese ships and aircraft regularly test Japanese forces in the area.
Observers have warned that the Chinese-Japanese scuffle could set off an armed conflict.
Separately, Japan has complained that China may have started offshore drilling for gas in the disputed waters.
“Japan has repeatedly lodged protest against China’s unilateral development and demanded the termination of such works,” the report said.
The document repeated Tokyo’s concerns over China’s growing assertiveness and widening naval reach in the Pacific and over what it calls the “opaqueness” of Beijing’s sky-rocketing military budget.
But it also noted that China has worked to set up an emergency hotline with Tokyo to prevent unintended conflicts at sea.