China and South Korea on Friday lashed out at a Japanese foreign relations report that stood firm on territorial claims that have put Tokyo on a collision course with its Asian neighbors.
An angry South Korea summoned Japan’s ambassador in response to the annual paper, while Beijing warned that Japan was “turning a blind eye to basic facts” and making “ungrounded accusations against China.”
The Foreign Ministry-issued document, called the “diplomatic blue book,” said the security environment in the Asia-Pacific has become “increasingly more severe” with emerging powers such as China and India expanding their global presence.
Tokyo bolstered its claim to the Senkaku Islands, also claimed by Beijing and Taiwan, by effectively nationalizing the chain in 2012, and renewed its claim to a disputed pair of islets controlled by South Korea known as Takeshima in Japan. The Korean name is Dokdo.
The report criticized China’s efforts to “change the status quo by force” in the region, and said Beijing’s territorial claims amounted to “assertions incompatible with the existing order of international law.”
Beijing has claimed ownership of almost all of the South China Sea, angering its other regional neighbors, including the Philippines.
It also routinely send ships into the waters around the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, triggering responses from ships and planes to shadow them.
China set up a new air defense identification zone over the islands last year, sparking sharp protests from the United States, Japan and South Korea.
The blue book said the Japan-U.S. alliance had become even more important to counter China, with the close ties underscored by a U.S. decision this week not to send a warship to a naval ceremony in China after learning Japan was not invited.
U.S. President Barack Obama is due to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month in Japan as part of Washington’s bid to boost its regional influence.
But the paper on Friday added that Japan would try to improve thorny relations with China as Asia’s two biggest economies “share responsibility” for peace and stability in Asia and beyond.
Beijing dismissed the report, and made an apparent reference to Abe’s efforts to turn the pacifist Self-Defense Forces into a regular standing army.
“The new version of the diplomatic blue paper turns a blind eye to basic facts, and maliciously makes unfounded accusations against China,” Hong Lei, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told a regular press briefing in Beijing.
“Peace and development is the trend of the times. What Japan has done is to make excuses to serve its diplomatic purposes of arms expansion and war preparation. This is a deliberate action to stir up tensions.”
South Korea summoned the Japanese ambassador Friday over what it saw as a fresh move by Japan to stake its claim and a plan to promote the stance in all elementary school textbooks.
“Our government expresses strong regret at Japan’s outrageous claim on our indigenous territory, Dokdo,” Seoul’s foreign ministry said.
Japan’s repeated claim will not only “severely” damage bilateral ties, but also threaten peace and security in Northeast Asia, it added.
Relations between Tokyo and Seoul have sunk to their worst level in years, mired in emotive disputes linked to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule, particularly Japan’s forced recruitment of tens of thousands of “comfort women” from Korea and other countries to provide sex for Imperial Japanese soldiers in wartime brothels.
Japan’s aggressive expansion across Asia in the first half of the 20th century still evokes bitter memories in the region, especially China and South Korea.