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BEIJING (Kyodo) Prime Minister Taro Aso’s recent portrayal of China as a nuclear threat was likely intended to gain domestic political support and justify Japan’s military expansion, Chinese media reported Thursday.

“China’s nuclear policy and nuclear strategy are very transparent. China’s position on denuclearization is clear for all to see,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

He was responding to reporters’ questions about Aso’s remarks at a Japan-European Union summit in Prague, at which the prime minister said the security environment in Northeast Asia is increasingly hostile in view of North Korea’s recent missile launch and China’s modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

“I don’t know what Japan’s leader was trying to achieve in using China’s nuclear issue as a talking point in such a situation,” Ma said.

The China Daily reported earlier Thursday that Beijing-based military analysts were unsurprised at Aso’s remarks, as he has been trying to raise his popularity with the Japanese public by appearing tougher in foreign affairs. At the same time, Aso raised the specter of a China threat with the international community to seek support for boosting Japan’s military power, they said.

“It’s the same old trick of talking about one thing now and another thing later. The comments do not reflect Japan’s real nuclear policy,” Liu Jiangyong, a professor at Tsinghua University who analyzes Asia-Pacific issues, was quoted as saying.

Liu noted that China and Japan, in a joint declaration issued in 1998, have already reached a consensus on ultimately ridding the world of nuclear weapons and on opposing nuclear proliferation.

Li Daguang, a senior military expert at the National Defense University, told the China Daily that Aso is portraying its neighbors as threats to justify Japan’s own military development.

“It picks China, but (has) never challenged the U.S. for its nuclear policy,” Li was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Another Chinese newspaper, Global Times, warned Thursday that Aso’s comments, together with the remarks made by top U.S. military official Michael Mullen that China’s military focus is U.S.-focused, threaten to create “disharmony” at a time when mutual trust is crucial to face global challenges.

In an opinion piece on its Web site, Global Times, an organ of the Communist Party, said the comments by the two countries were “sending a very confusing message and making it hard to understand their China policies.”

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