BEIJING – China on Tuesday criticized Japan for loosening decades-old restrictions on its military, and warned the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to take any action that could threaten stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We oppose Japan’s move of deliberately fabricating the China threat so as to serve its domestic political purposes,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters during a daily briefing.
He warned Tokyo that regardless of how it interprets its Constitution, Japan “must not infringe upon China’s sovereignty and national security nor undermine regional peace and regional stability.”
The Cabinet approved the reinterpretation of the Constitution on Tuesday afternoon, opening the door to the armed defense of the country’s allies, as well as increased participation in U.N. peacekeeping activities. According to some critics, the move also places the country on a slippery slope toward allowing the Self-Defense Forces to participate in full combat operations.
“It’s only natural for us to wonder if Japan is going to change the path of peaceful development that it has long been pursuing,” Hong said.
He also criticized the Abe administration for steamrolling the “strong (domestic) opposition” to the changes. According to some polls, more than 50 percent of the population opposes the move.
The Abe administration has cited China’s increasingly assertive behavior, along with the threat of a nuclear North Korea, as the primary reason for reinterpreting the Constitution to allow the country to use force in defense of its allies.
In particular, Tokyo has expressed concern over China’s sovereignty claims over the Senkaku Islands.
China’s state-run media launched a broadside Wednesday against Japan’s move to loosen the constraints on its military, casting the move as a threat to Asian security.
“The Japanese government is eager to break through the postwar system,” wrote the ruling Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper.
It called the Abe government’s move “a dangerous signal, as well as a wake-up call.”
In commentary late Tuesday, China’s official Xinhua news agency challenged Tokyo with the question: “Is China on your military agenda?”
“Japan has a history of making sneaky attacks, as it did in launching wars with China, Russia and the United States in the last 100 years,” Xinhua wrote. “Now, Japan, with greater freedom to use military force, is making the world more worried.”
China, home to the world’s largest military, far outnumbers rival Japan in manpower, ships, aircraft and defense spending.
The country’s official defense budget last year ran to $119.5 billion. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance 2014 report, Japan’s total was $51 billion.
China’s nationalistic Global Times newspaper ran a cartoon on Wednesday depicting Abe as American action hero Rambo, with a Japanese flag bandanna tied around his forehead and wielding a large machine gun.
“Both Tokyo and Washington wish to see more disturbances in Asia, as the U.S. hopes it will hinder China’s rise and Japan wants to seek opportunities to realize its rise both politically and militarily,” the paper wrote.
“China needs to expose the Japanese rightists’ evil intent.”