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Japan warns of China's growing naval muscle
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 2, 2011

Japan voiced concern Tuesday over China's growing assertiveness and widening naval reach in nearby waters and the Pacific and over what it called the "opaqueness" of Beijing's military budget.

In its annual defence report, Tokyo also pointed to threats from North Korea's series of nuclear tests and development of a new mid-range ballistic missile, and at a lingering island dispute with Russia.

China has been embroiled in separate spats over islands -- with Japan as well as with several Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam and the Philippines -- which have flared up again over the past year.

The report, approved by Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet, used a Japanese word that can be translated as "overbearing" or "assertive" for China's stance in the disputes with its neighbours, including Japan.

The report, released by the defence ministry, said that in this context, China's "future direction can be a source of concern".

Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa later told reporters that the intended English translation was "assertive", Jiji Press reported.

"We used the expression, thinking the entire international community probably perceives it that way," he said. "This is one way of expressing our hope that China will address these issues through friendly relations."

The paper also said China's defence spending was not transparent, saying that the defence budget publicly announced by China "is widely seen as only part of what Beijing actually spends for military purposes."

"Opaqueness in its defence policies and military movements are concerns for the region, including Japan, and for the international community, and we need to carefully analyse them," it said.

The paper said China is expected to expand its routine activities in the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

"Considering the recent modernisation of China's maritime and air forces, the areas affected by the capabilities will likely expand beyond its nearby waters," the defence paper said.

Japan's defence outlook has moved away from a perceived Cold War threat of a Soviet invasion, while Japan has boosted ground, air and naval forces on the far-southern Nansei islands near disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The paper for the first time also mentioned "risks to the stable use of the 'global commons' such as maritime, cyber and outer space as an emerging security issue in recent years."

The report also labelled North Korea's atomic bomb tests "a significant threat to Japan's security when the North is boosting capabilities of ballistic missiles that could carry weapons of mass destruction".

Japan also reiterated its claim of sovereignty over various islands that are in dispute with its neighbours China, Russia and South Korea.

A row over islands called Dokdo by Seoul and Takeshima by Tokyo flared again this week when three Japanese conservative opposition lawmakers were denied entry to South Korea as they planned to visit a nearby island.

South Korea's defence ministry launched a protest over the claim in the defence paper and urged Japan "to realise they can never expect progress in bilateral military relations without giving up a claim to Dokdo."

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