Jul 10, 2013

    Abe rachets up China threat

    CHINA is trying to change the regional status quo by force and based on claims that contradict international law, Japan said in the first defence White Paper to be published under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government.

    "In cases where China's interests conflict with those of neighbouring countries, including Japan, it has taken measures that have been called high-handed, including trying to change the status quo by force," the Defence Ministry said in its annual report on Japan's security situation, released yesterday.

    Tokyo is particularly concerned by China's activities in waters around islands that both countries claim, according to the report, which gives a snapshot of what Japan perceives to be its major security issues.

    "Of course, Abe wants to ratchet up the China threat in the (run-up to Upper House elections on July 21), because that's his trump card," said Dr Jeff Kingston, professor of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo. Mr Abe emphasised security issues before his landslide Lower House polls victory in December.

    Japanese fighter planes were dispatched more than 300 times to investigate Chinese aircraft approaching Japan's airspace in the year to March, about twice as often as that in the previous year, according to the report.

    Chinese government ships entered Japanese-controlled waters around the disputed islands 41 times between September and April, compared with three incursions in the preceding eight months, it said.

    Japan called China's actions - including what it said was the locking of fire-control radar on a Japanese ship in January - "dangerous" and said they risked triggering an unexpected situation.

    "This is extremely regrettable, and China is urged to accept and adhere to international norms," the report said.

    On North Korea, which Japan sees as another major security challenge for the region, the report said Pyongyang's third nuclear test - last February - and its launch of a long-range rocket in December last year suggest it might be making considerable progress on both fronts.

    "We assess that North Korea's ballistic-missile development is considered to have entered a new phase," it said.

    "In conjunction with its efforts to enhance its ballistic-missile capability, the nuclear tests by North Korea pose a significant threat to Japan's security, and they are significantly detrimental to peace and stability in North-east Asia and (for) the international community."