Tokyo slams reclamation in S. China Sea

An April satellite image of what is claimed to be an airstrip under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea.
An April satellite image of what is claimed to be an airstrip under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Tokyo has slammed Beijing's bid to reclaim land in the South China Sea as a "coercive attempt" to force sweeping maritime claims, in a defence paper that comes as Tokyo expands the role of its own military.

The White Paper, approved by the Japanese Cabinet yesterday, accused Beijing of "raising concerns among the international community" as it ramped up criticism from last year's report. The paper is an annual summary of Japan's official view on defence matters.

"China, particularly over maritime issues, continues to act in an assertive manner, including coercive attempts at changing the status quo, and is poised to fulfil its unilateral demands without compromise," said the report.

For the first time, it included satellite images of Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea.

"China has rapidly moved ahead with land reclamation on seven reefs in the Spratly Islands and on some is building infrastructure including runways and harbours. Beginning with the US, this is a concern for the international community," the White Paper noted.

China claims most of the 3.5 million sq km South China Sea, with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also staking claims.

Japan has no claims in the area, but fears that Chinese military bases there would bolster Beijing's influence over a region through which US$5 trillion (S$6.9 trillion) in trade passes every year, some of it to and from Japan.

China has said that its construction work in the South China Sea would be used for defence as well as to provide civilian services that would benefit other countries.

Japan and the Philippines have conducted two joint naval exercises in and around the South China Sea. Last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino said they would begin talks that could give Japan access to Philippine bases.

Japan has also said that it may begin air patrols in the South China Sea. China said it would see that as interference.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2015, with the headline 'Tokyo slams reclamation in S. China Sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe