Japan's Defence White Paper once again muds China's normal maritime activities, says Xinhua

TOKYO - The Defence White Paper released by Japan on Tuesday (Aug 8), while a summary of the country's defence policy changes, has again devoted a large part to "mudding China's normal and justified maritime activities in the East and South China Seas", said China's Xinhua news agency.

Xinhua said that of the 563-page White Paper, 34 contained "irresponsible remarks on China's national defence system", in an attempt to justify Japan's own militarisation.

By playing up the perceived China threat, Japan is trying to "make excuses for its constant expansion of Japan's military power", Xinhua said, quoting unnamed analysts.

The White Paper also devoted a special chapter to the highly controversial security laws which were forcefully enacted and allow Japanese forces to fight abroad, Xinhua added.

In the annual White Paper, Japan's Defence Ministry said the number of Japan's jet scrambles against Chinese aircraft hit a record in the year to March 2017.

The first confirmed advancement of China's aircraft carrier to the Pacific also came in December 2016, Reuters reported.

"There is a possibility that their naval activities, as well as air force activities, will pick up pace in the Sea of Japan from now on," the ministry said. "We need to keep a close eye on the Chinese naval force's activity," it added.

Tokyo's ties with Beijing have long been plagued by a territorial dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited East China Sea islets and the legacy of Japan's wartime aggression, said Reuters.

The White Paper also warned against the acute threat posed by North Korea's weapons programmes as Pyongyang's continued series of missile and nuclear tests, in defiance of UN sanctions, bring technological progress to the reclusive state.

The White Paper was released after North Korea fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) last month (July ) on lofted trajectories to land off Japan's west coast.

"It is conceivable that North Korea's nuclear weapons programme has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturisation of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads," the Defence Ministry said.

"Since last year, when it forcibly implemented two nuclear tests and more than 20 ballistic missile launches, the security threats have entered a new stage," it added.

North Korea's latest ICBM test showed that Pyongyang may now be able to reach most of the continental United States, two US officials have told Reuters.

The growing threat has prompted Japanese municipalities to hold evacuation drills in case of a possible missile attack, and boosted demand for nuclear shelters.

Missiles launched on a lofted trajectory were difficult to intercept, the defence ministry said.

With North Korea pressing ahead with missile tests, a group of ruling party lawmakers led by Mr Itsunori Onodera, who became defence minister on Thursday, urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in March to consider acquiring the capability to hit enemy bases.

If realised, that would be a drastic change in Japan's defence posture. Tokyo has so far avoided taking the controversial and costly step of acquiring bombers or cruise missiles with the range to strike other countries.

"North Korea's missiles represent a deepening threat. That, along with China's continued threatening behaviour in the East China Sea and South China Sea, is a major concern for Japan," Mr Onodera told a news briefing in Tokyo.