TOKYO — Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Wednesday he was concerned about China’s military build-up, urging his giant neighbor to act as a “responsible member of the international community.”
Japan wants to deepen relations with China in the run-up to the 40th anniversary next year of the restoration of diplomatic ties, Noda told parliament.
“On the other hand, I am concerned about their reinforcement of national defense power, which lacks transparency, and their acceleration of maritime activities,” Noda said.
“I expect China to play an appropriate role as a responsible member of the international community,” he said, adding he wanted to visit the country at a convenient time for both sides.
Noda, known to have slightly hawkish views on China, has irked Beijing in the past with his assertion that prominent Japanese war criminals from World War II, should no longer be considered “criminals.”
However, since coming to power he has pledged that neither he nor any of his cabinet will visit the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo that honors the country’s war dead, a move welcomed by Japan’s Asian neighbors.
In an annual defense paper published last month Japan voiced concern over China’s widening naval reach in nearby waters and the Pacific and over what it called the “opaqueness” of Beijing’s rapidly-growing military budget.
China reacted angrily, with its foreign ministry branding the paper “irresponsible” and insisting Beijing’s drive to modernize its forces was entirely defensive.
Earlier this year, China announced military spending would rise 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan (US$91.7 billion) in 2011 after funding slowed last year.
Beijing has repeatedly sought to alleviate fears over its pursuit of sophisticated missiles, satellites, cyber-weapons and fighter jets, stressing that its policy is “defensive in nature.”
However, China has become increasingly assertive in its claims over the East China Sea and South China Sea, most of which it views as its maritime territory, but where several other Asian nations have competing claims.
It has invested heavily in developing its first stealth fighter jet, revealed in January, as well as an aircraft carrier and anti-ballistic missile capable of piercing the defenses of even the most sturdy U.S. naval ships.
Despite close economic ties between the two countries, relations between Japan and China are often fraught, marred by what some in China see as Tokyo’s failure to make sufficient amends for its record of wartime atrocities.
In September 2010, ties plunged to their lowest in years after Tokyo detained a Chinese fishing boat captain whose vessel had collided with Japanese coast guard ships in waters disputed islands. He was later released.
- Billed as a ‘hawk,’ Noda sparks wariness in China (Japan Times) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- Japan Defense Chief Urges China Ties (Wall Street Journal) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)