The Defense Ministry said Tuesday it remains deeply concerned about China’s maritime ambitions in the region, particularly in the light of Chinese domestic trends.
The defense white paper for 2015 examines a range of global threats and pays particular attention to China’s growing military assertiveness in the East China Sea and South China Sea, accusing it of “high-handed” actions to change the status quo by force.
“Coupled with a lack of transparency in terms of military and security affairs, China’s military development is of concern to the regional and international community, including our country,” Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told a news conference following Cabinet approval of the annual paper.
“Our country needs to observe it closely,” he added.
The Cabinet’s approval of the white paper came after the Liberal Democratic Party rejected a draft version in early July on the grounds that it was too soft on China.
The white paper says in its assessment that China “has been continuing activities seen as high-handed to alter the status quo by force and has attempted to materialize its unilateral claim without making compromises.”
It adds that some of these activities “could trigger contingencies.”
China has been building an offshore gas platform in the East China Sea since June 2013, the paper says.
Japan and China agreed in 2008 to jointly develop natural gas fields in the East China Sea, where the two countries have not agreed on a boundary between their exclusive economic zones. Under a demarcation Japan has proposed, China’s new gas platform would lie on the Chinese side.
The paper says Japan has raised its concerns over the project. “Our country has repeatedly lodged protests with China’s unilateral development and urged it to stop the construction work,” it says.
The references to China’s action in this matter was added after the LDP rejected the first draft. The party reportedly said it lacked details about China’s building of a platform that it fears could be used for military purposes.
The paper notes that China “routinely” sends ships to waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
It says the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets a record 464 times against Chinese aircraft close to Japanese airspace in fiscal 2014, up 49 times from a year earlier.
“Activities by Chinese naval and air force aircraft, which apparently gather information about our country, have been observed frequently,” it says.
In November 2013, China abruptly declared an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that covers the Senkakus.
On the situation in the South China Sea, the paper cites international concerns about China, including some expressed by the United States, saying it has conducted reclamation work “rapidly” and “on a large scale” at seven reefs in the Spratly Islands.
“China . . . is believed to be promoting the construction of infrastructures including a runway and port on parts of the reefs,” the paper says.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, but parts are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The paper notes that a Chinese fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Navy aircraft at close range in August last year.
As for North Korea, the white paper says concern is rising in the international community over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons.
“North Korea has conducted nuclear tests three times since 2006” and has “repeatedly indicated” its readiness to conduct further tests, according to the paper.
The paper warns there is an increasing risk of North Korea deploying nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that could reach Japan.
It also notes that North Korea announced in May it had successfully test-fired a newly developed submarine-launched ballistic missile.
Meanwhile, the paper says terrorism continues to pose a constant, pressing security challenge to international society.
“The risk of terrorism has been on the increase in developed countries and our country is not immune from it,” the report states.