Tuesday, July 21, 2015

• Japan defence paper slams China's 'coercive' maritime claims in South China Sea


This photo taken May 11, 2015 through a military plane shows China's alleged on-going reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in South China Sea.

 TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday slammed Beijing's bid to reclaim land in the South China Sea as a "coercive attempt" to force through sweeping maritime claims, in a defence paper that comes as Tokyo tries to expand the role of its military.

Tokyo said China was acting "unilaterally and without compromise", as it also highlighted concern about North Korea's nuclear programme and Russian moves in violence-wracked Ukraine.

The white paper accused Beijing of "raising concerns among the international community" in ramped-up criticism from last year's report, 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 titled "Defense of Japan".

China is locked in disputes with several neighbours over its claims to almost the entire South China sea and is currently pursuing a rapid programme of artificial island construction in the region.

It is locked in a separate dispute with Japan over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands -- which it calls the Diaoyus -- in the East China Sea, as Chinese ships and aircrafts regularly test Japanese forces in the area.

Observers have warned that the Sino-Japanese scuffle could set off an armed conflict.

Separately, Japan has complained that China may have started offshore drilling for gas in the disputed waters.

"Japan has repeatedly lodged protest against China's unilateral development and demanded the termination of such works," the report said.

The document repeated Tokyo's concerns over China's growing assertiveness and widening naval reach in the Pacific and over what it calls the "opaqueness" of Beijing's sky-rocketing military budget.

But it also noted that China has worked to set up an emergency hotline with Tokyo to prevent unintended conflicts at sea.

Last week, China criticised Tokyo after the lower house of parliament passed bills that could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

The move is deeply unpopular at home with approval ratings plummeting for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who insists the changes are crucial to counter security concerns in the region.

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.

Referring to the Ukraine crisis, the report said Russia "has engaged in so-called 'hybrid warfare' that is difficult to identify definitively as an armed attack by a country, and has attempted to change the status quo by force or coercion"

"The Russian attempt is considered to be a global security issue possibly affecting the whole international community including Asia," it said.

On North Korea, the report warned of a "greater risk" of Pyongyang deploying ballistic missiles mounted with nuclear warheads "that include Japan in their range".

on July 20 2015 

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. Reuters

Japan has accused China of "high handed" tactics for moving forward with its claims over the South China Sea despite mounting criticism from other Asian leaders. China's efforts to construct the foundations of a military base on Fiery Cross Reef, one of seven artificial islands China has created in the disputed Spratly Islands, is a step too far, Japanese defense leaders claim in a new white paper expected to be released in July, according to DefenseNews.

Japan's accusations come as Japanese lawmakers are debating legislation that will enable the country to engage in collective self-defense for the first time since World War II. Meanwhile, the Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) will participate in joint drills with the United States and Australia on Australian soil for the first time later this year.

"If Japan has chosen to insert new language of China being 'belligerent' in the defense white paper then it is quite a step up in language from the previous, more guarded cause for 'concern' type of expressions in the past about Chinese military movements," said Christopher Hughes, professor of international politics and Japanese studies at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, to DefenseNews.

China responded to the allegations by accusing Japan of trying to "smear China to create tensions in the region." In recent months, China has added about 800 hectares to seven reefs in the area, including an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef. Almost all of the reefs are also claimed by the Philippines.

The South China Sea's region has become increasingly tense in recent months as nations have pushed back against China's claims over the area. In June, the Philippines and the U.S. held military exercises as the Japanese and Philippine navies started joint training on the island province of Palawan near the South China Sea. Japan is also locked in a dispute with China over a small group of islands in the East China Sea.

In recent days, U.S. military officials have reassured allies that American forces are ready to respond to any conflict in the South China Sea if necessary, the Associated Press reported. "The United States has been very clear that it does not support the use of coercion and force," said Adm. Scott Swift, who oversees command of the Pacific Fleet.

Reuters By Tim Kelly
11 hours ago

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly …

By Tim Kelly

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan called on China on Tuesday to halt construction of oil-and-gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea close to waters claimed by both nations, concerned that Chinese drills could tap reservoirs that extend into Japanese territory.

Japan's Defense Ministry added the demand to its annual defense review after hawkish members of the ruling party complained that its original draft was too soft on China, a ministry official said.

China resumed exploration in the East China Sea two years ago, the report said. In 2012, Japan's government had angered Beijing and purchased a disputed island chain there. Before then, Beijing had curtailed activities under an agreement with Japan to jointly develop undersea resources in disputed areas.

"We have confirmed that China has started construction of new ocean (exploration) platforms and we repeat our opposition to unilateral development by China and call for a halt," the ministry said.

The platforms are being erected on the Chinese side of a median line delineating the exclusive economic zones of the two countries, the Japanese ministry official said.

Tokyo worries that the platforms will tap into gas fields that overlap the median line and could also be used as radar stations or bases for drones or other aircraft to monitor air and sea activity near the disputed chain of islets, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

China's defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Japanese report.

The report didn't disclose details of the location or number of offshore platforms being erected by China.

The 500-page report, approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, also commented on the disputed South China Sea where Japan and other countries have criticized Chinese land reclamation projects as a threat to regional security.

For the first time, the report 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 harbors. Beginning with the U.S., this is a concern for the international community," it said.

China claims most of the 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) South China Sea, with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also staking claims.

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

China has said its construction work in the South China Sea would be used for defense 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. In June, Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino said they would begin talks that could give Japan access to Philippine bases.

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

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Mark Bendeich)