Japan's Abe says China's prosperity rests on trust, not tensions

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right), Japan's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso (centre) and Japan's Economics Minister Akira Amari sit at the lower house of the parliament in Tokyo on Jan 24, 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo A
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right), Japan's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso (centre) and Japan's Economics Minister Akira Amari sit at the lower house of the parliament in Tokyo on Jan 24, 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said China's continued economic growth will require building trust, not tensions, with other countries, according to an interview broadcast on Sunday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said China's continued economic growth will require building trust, not tensions, with other countries, according to an interview broadcast on Sunday.

A steady Chinese military buildup over the last 20 years is a serious concern for countries in the region, Mr Abe said in a CNN interview from Davos, Switzerland, where tensions between Tokyo and Beijing were on display at the World Economic Forum last week.

"For China to continue to enjoy economic prosperity, it needs to foster trusting international relationships, not tensions," Mr Abe said on the "Fareed Zakaria GPS" programme. "And it is important for China to understand this."

"Military expansion will contribute nothing to China's future, its economic growth or prosperity."

Mr Abe's top priority since taking office more than a year ago has been reviving a sluggish economy, but he has also pledged to strengthen Japan's military in response to China's rapid military buildup and recent actions to back its claim to Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea.

Beijing's decision to declare an air defence identification zone in an area that includes the disputed islands triggered protests last month from Japan, South Korea and the United States, which said China was trying to change the status quo in the East China Sea.

Mr Abe seized on that point in Sunday's broadcast.

"It is also important for China to recognise that any attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion cannot be accepted," he said.

The Japanese leader said he has no intention of countering China militarily, "but I am responsible for protecting Japanese waters, territory and Japanese lives and property. And I intend to exercise those responsibilities".