• Kyodo

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China on Friday said it was “dissatisfied and concerned” by Japanese criticisms of its land reclamation projects in the South China Sea as reported in the outline of a forthcoming defense report.

“Japan has done its utmost to smear China and create tensions in the region,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing.

The outline of the defense white paper, reported this week, described China’s actions in the Spratly Islands, known as Nansha in Chinese, as “high-handed.”

The report also criticized China for its military spending, which it said is now 41 times higher than in fiscal 1989. The increase is consistent with China’s robust economic growth, Hua said.

The criticisms, she added, are an attempt to exaggerate the claimed threat that China poses to regional stability.

“Japan’s real intentions are all too clear,” she said, “doubtlessly to find an excuse for its unprecedented adjustments to its security policies.”

Japan has seen a recent uptick in defense spending as the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes to beef up the country’s passive security policy to allow the Self-Defense Forces to expand overseas operations in the name of collective self-defense.

Observers see the changes as a response to China’s growing military might and increasingly aggressive behavior toward its neighbors.

Japan, Hua said, should “stop all of these provocative actions and words against China’s territorial sovereignty.”

China says it has undisputed sovereignty over wide swaths of the South China Sea, a claim that overlaps with those of a number of other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

In the last year and a half, China has added around 800 hectares to seven reefs in the area, creating a platform with the potential to host military installations, such as airstrips and radar towers.

The project has brought stinging criticism from the international community, including the United States, which has raised concerns about the construction’s effect on regional stability.

On Tuesday, China said it had completed some of its reclamation work and would begin to build facilities for a range of civilian purposes, as well as “necessary military defense needs.”