Japan warns China of unintended conflict
TOKYO—China risks triggering unintended conflict with its Asian rivals through its aggressive stance in maritime disputes, Japan warned on Tuesday in an annual security assessment.
China’s sweeping claims in the strategic South China Sea, where Beijing has built a series of artificial islands capable of supporting military operations despite overlapping claims from other nations, have stoked international alarm.
The region’s superpower “continues to act in an assertive manner,” and its actions “include dangerous acts that could cause unintended consequences,” Tokyo said in a white paper that was approved by the Cabinet.
Beijing is under pressure to respect a UN-backed tribunal’s finding last month that there is no legal basis for its ambitions over the resource-rich South China Sea where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and others also have claims.
The white paper said China was “poised to fulfill its unilateral demands without compromise” including efforts “to turn these coercive changes to the status quo into a fait accompli.”
And it again called on Beijing to abide by the ruling of the tribunal, which China has denounced as a fraud.
Japan also expressed concern over increased activity in the East China Sea, where the two countries have competing claims over a group of small uninhabited islets called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
“Recently, China has been intensifying activities near the Senkaku Islands, such as its military aircraft flying southward closer to the islands,” it said.
But even as Japan made public the content of the white paper, China’s Navy fired dozens of missiles and torpedoes during exercises in the East China Sea, underscoring Beijing’s determination to back up its sovereignty claims with force if needed.
The live-fire drills that began on Monday followed China’s strident rejection of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling last month that invalidated Beijing’s claims to a vast swath of the South China Sea.
On Tuesday, China’s defense ministry said the East China Sea exercises were aimed at improving the “intensity, precision, stability and speed” of its military.
“An information technology-based war at sea is sudden, cruel and short, which requires fast transition to combat status, quick preparation and high assault efficiency,” the ministry said.
The drills involved ships, submarines, aircraft and Coast Guard forces, illustrating China’s growing emphasis on integrated training under realistic conditions.
China’s Navy has been closing the gap with its US rival in both ship numbers and technology, including the deployment of advanced antiship missiles, nuclear submarines and the country’s first aircraft carrier.
Maritime tensions involving China and Japan have heightened in the past year.
In the year to March 2016, Japan’s Air Force scrambled jets 571 times against Chinese planes flying near Japanese air space, an increase of 107 from the previous year, according to the white paper.
In June, Japan accused China of sending a spy ship into its territorial waters as the former conducted a joint exercise with the United States and India.
And last month, the two countries were at loggerheads over accusations Japanese warplanes locked their fire control radar onto Chinese aircraft.
Beijing sparked alarm after it unilaterally established an air-defense identification zone in the East China Sea in 2013, demanding all aircraft submit flight plans when traversing the zone which covers islands disputed with Tokyo and also claimed by Taipei.
Risk of miscalculation
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in February that China’s military presence in the South China Sea was increasing the risk of “miscalculation or conflict” between regional countries.
A US warship in May sailed close to a disputed reef that China has built up into an artificial island, prompting Beijing to express “dissatisfaction and opposition.”
Japan’s white paper also highlighted concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program, saying it was possible Pyongyang has “achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads.”
Since carrying out a fourth nuclear test in January, North Korea has claimed it had miniaturized a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile and successfully tested an engine designed for an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the US mainland. Reports from AFP and AP
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