BEIJING (AFP) - China on Thursday urged Tokyo to avoid “crippling regional peace and security", after the lower house of Japan’s parliament passed bills that could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since World War II.
“It is fully justified to ask if Japan is going to give up its exclusively defence-oriented policy," China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to... refrain from jeopardising China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability,” Hua said in the statement posted on the ministry’s website.
Hua described the passing of the bills as “an unprecedented move since the Second World War”.
Japanese forces launched a full-scale invasion of China in 1937 and the wartime history between the Asian powers still heavily colours their relations today.
Beijing – which is also embroiled in a territorial row with Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea – regularly accuses the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of showing insufficient contrition for the conflict.
Hua referred to the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in its conflict with China, which Beijing calls “the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression".
“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history,” she added.
The vote marks a victory for Abe and other nationalists, who have ignored popular anger in a bid to break what they see as the shackles of the US-imposed constitution.
China’s official Xinhua news agency also condemned the move, saying it meant “a nightmare scenario has come a step closer for Japanese people and neighbouring nations”.
If passed by the upper house, the bill will “tarnish the reputation of a nation that has earned international respect for its pacifist Constitution over a period of nearly seven decades", it said.
The remarks come despite attempts to improve relations between China and Japan, with China’s President Xi Jinping meeting twice with Abe. Before that, high level meetings between the neighbours were suspended for two years.
China has increased the speed of its military spending at double-digit percentage rates for decades, prompting concerns from neighbouring countries.
It has held a number of military exercises near Japan, with Beijing’s navy completing its first circumnavigation of the country in 2013.
China’s defence ministry said its army planes in May for the first time flew over the Miyako Strait, between Japan’s Miyako and Okinawa Islands.
China is preparing a massive military parade in September to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat. The day of the parade has also been declared a public holiday.