BEIJING – China’s military lashed out Saturday at Japan’s plans to boost defense spending, accusing its neighbor of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security.
China “resolutely opposes” the five-year defense plan adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government Tuesday, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
Japan “continues to deny its history of World War II aggression, challenge the postwar order, and harm the feelings of the people of those victimized nations,” Geng said.
The strongly worded statement marks the latest salvo in an ongoing string of accusations over who is responsible for a sharp rise in tensions in the East China Sea. The Chinese military has taken an increasingly hawkish stance amid a bitter dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.
Japan’s nationalization of the uninhabited islet chain 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, sparking fears of an incident.
Under the arrangement adopted Tuesday, Japan will raise defense spending by 5 percent over the next five years to purchase its first surveillance drones, more jet fighters and naval destroyers, and to set up an amphibious unit similar to the U.S. Marine Corps.
Broader defense program guidelines also adopted 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, Beijing said all aircraft entering a vast new air defense zone over the East China sea must identify themselves and follow China’s instructions.
Geng accused Japan of manufacturing fears of Chinese aggression and denying responsibility for having invaded China and other countries in the last century. He accused Japan of maintaining a “Cold War mentality” that runs counter to the trends of peaceful development, cooperation and mutual benefit.
“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 neighbors to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and development,” Geng said.