BEIJING • China's defence minister told the head of Japan's National Security Council yesterday that Japanese legislation that could see troops sent to fight abroad for the first time since World War II would "complicate" regional security.
Sino-Japanese ties, long bedevilled by China's memories of Japan's wartime aggression and disputed islands in the East China Sea, have improved since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Chinese President Xi Jinping at an Asia-Pacific summit in Beijing in November.
The legislation, pushed through Japan's Lower House of Parliament on Thursday, would drop a ban on collective self-defence or fighting to defend a friendly country such as the United States.
Chinese defence chief, General Chang Wanquan, told Mr Shotaro Yachi that the passing of the Bill was an "unprecedented move", state news agency Xinhua said, after the two of them met in Beijing.
"This move will have a complicated influence on regional security and strategic stability," the agency said, paraphrasing Gen Chang.
He "urged the Japanese to learn from history, respect major security concerns of its neighbours and not to do harm to regional peace and stability", Xinhua added.
China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the legislation called into question Japan's post- war commitment to "the path of peaceful development".
Mr Xi and Mr Abe had a second mini-summit in April at an Asia-Africa leaders' gathering in Indonesia, and Japan wants to keep the thaw on track, while ensuring China realises the risks of an increasingly assertive maritime military policy, particularly its claims over large parts of the South China Sea.
Japan recently joined military exercises in the Philippines and is currently participating in biennial exercises with Australia and the US.
It is the first time Japan has participated in the two-week "Talisman Sabre" exercise in the Northern Territory and Queensland state that involves practising operations at sea, in the air and on land.
Despite the tensions, Beijing is preparing for high-level political dialogue with Tokyo, China's top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, told Mr Yachi on Thursday, fuelling speculation of a leaders' summit as early as September.
Mr Abe's critics worry he wants to dilute past government apologies for Japan's wartime behaviour, though the Prime Minister has said he will uphold them.
A successful summit with Mr Xi could lift Mr Abe's support at home, which has sagged over doubts about his security policy.