China's move to set up defence zone profoundly dangerous: Japan

It warns of 'unintended consequences'

JAPAN has warned China that its high-handedness in maritime disputes with other countries could cause "unintended consequences" in the region, just days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought a summit meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The annual defence White Paper, approved by the Cabinet yesterday, in particular criticises the air defence identification zone (ADIZ) that China declared unilaterally last November.

Covering a large swathe of the East China Sea, the ADIZ overlaps Japan's own zone over the disputed Senkaku islands, which the Chinese call Diaoyu and also claim.

The White Paper called the ADIZ's establishment a "profoundly dangerous" act that could escalate the regional security situation, leading to "unintended consequences".

The timing of the White Paper could not have been worse.

On Monday, the Nikkei business daily said the two countries are seeking to arrange a summit on the fringe of November's Apec meeting that Beijing will host.

Japan is concerned about any attempt to change the status quo by force, particularly over China challenging its control over the Senkakus. It noted warily Russia's "use of force in the background" in Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in March.

China's Defence Ministry accused Japan of making "groundless accusations".

"Japan... is deliberately creating a 'Chinese threat' as an excuse to adjust its military policy, and expand its manufacture of arms. China is firmly opposed to this," it said in a statement.

China's state-run Global Times said the White Paper was "inflaming territorial issues and maliciously exaggerating the China threat".

But Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera sought to downplay the criticism against China, saying the report "lays out the facts dispassionately", and called for the reopening of a security dialogue with China. "We need to make efforts for a dialogue with China in order to avoid unintended consequences. Those efforts include creating a maritime communication mechanism for use during emergencies by the authorities of both sides," he told reporters.

The White Paper also called North Korea's missile and nuclear projects a "grave destabilising factor", warning that progress in the projects could embolden the regime, leading to more provocation. "If North Korea extends the range of ballistic missiles further, reduces the size of nuclear arms and turns them into warheads, the country could come to believe it has secured strategic deterrence against the United States," it said.

A reference in the White Paper to the disputed Takeshima islands, which South Korea occupies and calls Dokdo, drew an angry response from Seoul. Japan should remember that "as long as it continues its unjust claim over Dokdo, the road to improving ties between the two countries can only be a long one," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said.

wengkin@sph.com.sg

boonlai@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Esther Teo in Beijing