BEIJING – China’s military is “strongly discontented with and firmly opposed to” the Japanese defense white paper that criticized intrusions by Chinese government ships into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands, according to a Ministry of National Defense spokesman.
“The new edition of Japan’s defense white paper deliberately ignores facts and plays up ‘China’s military threat,’ ” Geng Yansheng said in a statement released Thursday night.
The white paper, released Tuesday, “made groundless accusations against China’s legitimate conduct for safeguarding national sovereignty, and attempted to sow dissension between China and its neighboring countries,” he said. Geng also said his ministry has lodged a protest with Japan.
While Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying criticized the Japanese report at her regular press conference Tuesday, Geng’s statement took a harsher note, an indication that the Chinese military is growing frustrated with Japan’s stance on the uninhabited group of East China Sea islets Tokyo took possession of in 1895.
The Japanese-administered islets are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu, and Taiwan, which calls them Tiaoyutai.
In the white paper, the Japanese government said China’s repeated intrusions into Japanese waters around the islands are “extremely regrettable.”
In the statement, Geng also said Japan’s nationalization of some of the islands last September was “a grave violation” of China’s territorial sovereignty and caused tensions in bilateral relations. China has been claiming the islands since the 1970s, after a report came out on possible seabed mineral deposits and vast fisheries potential.
Japan falsely accuses China of destroying bilateral relations, Geng said, adding that Japanese officials’ remarks on the Senkakus issue “will mislead international opinions and create tensions in the region.”
Geng also criticized Japanese leaders for sometimes making “irresponsible remarks” on wartime history, warning that such moves will arouse strong concerns and high alert among its Asian neighbors and the international community.
“We urge the Japanese side to reflect on its aggressive history, choose the path of peaceful development and win the trust of its Asian neighbors by concrete actions,” Geng said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took an unusual step Friday to underscore Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, using his Marine Day message to the public to issue a veiled warning to China.
“Peace and prosperity in Japan as a maritime nation are based on free, open and peaceful oceans,” Abe said in his message released to the nation ahead of the national holiday Monday, which gives thanks for the benefits bestowed by the sea.
“I will protect (Japanese) interests in stable marine traffic routes, territorial waters and exclusive economic zones,” he said in an apparent reference to China’s claim that it owns the East China Sea islets.
“I have decided to preserve . . . maritime order governed by law, rejecting any attempt to alter the status quo by force,” he added.
Bilateral tensions over the islets have been running high ever since last year, when the central government effectively nationalized them despite fierce criticism from China. The two nations have also been at loggerheads over natural gas development in the area.
Prime ministers’ messages for the holiday, first issued in 2008, have never touched on maritime security. “It is unusual,” an official said of Abe’s message for this year.