Japan 'let down' by Xi's speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking during a reception commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, at the Great Hall Of The People in Beijing on Sept 3, 2015.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking during a reception commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, at the Great Hall Of The People in Beijing on Sept 3, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

Japan, seen as a focus of China's massive display of military might, has said it is disappointed that there was no sign of rapprochement from Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speech to mark Japan's defeat in World War II.

"Tokyo had requested that Beijing make sure that the event was not so anti-Japanese, but instead contain elements of rapprochement between Japan and China," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. "It was disappointing that such elements were not in President Xi Jinping's speech today."

China yesterday held an impressive parade of its latest weapons, a day after the 70th anniversary of Japan's formal surrender.

Mr Xi also announced a troop cut of 300,000 which, while some note is a deft touch, given the anxiety in the region over its growing military might, is seen as part of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) modernisation process rather than disarmament.

"You cut numbers to make it (the military) more modern, weapons-oriented and high-tech," observed Dr C. Raja Mohan of Indian think-tank Observer Research Foundation. Professor Srikanth Kondapalli of Jawaharlal Nehru University said "for India, the PLA modernisation is a concern", not least because the two sides have an unresolved territorial dispute.

For countries like the Philippines and Vietnam, with competing territorial claims with China in the South China Sea, that display of might would be worrying too.

Manila-based defence analyst Richard Javad Heydarian said the PLA "poses an even more lethal threat to the United States, Japan and their allies, including the Philippines, with its anti-access, area- denial weapons like the carrier- killer DF-21D missile". Said Vietnamese analyst Le Hong Hiep: "If China moves to upgrade its naval capacity, then it would be something that worries Vietnam."

Still, China's close neighbour South Korea is "not particularly concerned about China's military power, in that we don't think China would use it against us", said Dr Lee Jae Hyon of the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

For the US, the dominant power in the region, China's show of might is significant. "The implication for the US and our partners is to be less eager to think of China as a 'rising' military power, and rather treat it as a military power that has risen to the global stage," said analyst Lauren Dickey of the Council on Foreign Relations.

• With reporting by Nirmala Ganapathy, Melissa Sim, Chang May Choon, Raul Dancel and Nirmal Ghosh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Japan 'let down' by Xi's speech'. Print Edition | Subscribe