Japan demands China to end maritime assertiveness in region

Japan’s annual defence strategy paper raises concerns over China’s recent assertiveness in Asia-Pacific region, demanding Beijing to halt its oil exploration activities in East China Sea as well as ‘coercive’ land reclamation in South China Sea

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Japan’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday highlighted its concerns over China’s recent political and military presence in both East and South China Seas where Beijing has long been exploring energy resources and claiming some territorial rights through building artificial islands.

The ministry called China in an annual strategy paper to terminate "coercive attempt" at land reclamations and oil drills in the seas surrounding Japan.

"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 Japanese ministry said.

Tokyo asserted that Beijing was acting "unilaterally and without compromise" in order to change status quo in the region via its increasing maritime activities.

"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 strategy paper entitled as "Defense of Japan 2015," but briefly known as the “white paper.”

China’s efforts to redefine its territorial waters were increased last year when Beijing commenced to build seven artificial islands near by the Spratly archipelagos where coastal states in the South China Sea severely objected Chinese maritime expansion.

China has long been confronting with its maritime neighbours Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei in the South and East China Seas due to the rights of territorial waters and land reclamations.

The parties’ overlapping claims on maritime transportation, navigation, exclusive economic zones, fishing grounds, undersea bed gas and oil reserves have already deteriorated the problem as China started to build the artificial islands last year as well as it launched oil exploration drills in 2012.

Japan and China have been confronting on some uninhabited islets that were previously controlled by Beijing, but nationalised by Tokyo in 2012 to which Japan calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu in the East China Sea.

The 429-page long Japanese white paper warned China as it said such measures "include dangerous acts that could cause unintended consequences" unless Beijing halt its offensive activities.

"China has continued so-called assertive measures, including attempts to alter the status quo by coercive measures based on China's own assertion which is incompatible with existing international law and order, and shown a stance to realize its unilateral claims without compromise," the white paper said, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

Chinese authorities have not publicly responded to the Japanese claims, but a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has argued that the Japanese white paper "ignores facts, makes irresponsible remarks... deliberately plays up the 'China threat' and stirs up tensions," according to China’s official Xinhua agency.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was re-elected with an overwhelming majority in a snap election at the end of the last year, has been trying to review Japan’s pacifist constitution in order to build up a re-assertive Japanese security vision to which some of Japanese public essentially objected.

Abe’s incumbent ruling Liberal Democratic Party last week passed a legislation in the powerful lower house of parliament which allows the country’s security forces to fight outside the country for the first time since the Second World War.

Hence Japan’s move towards redefining its new security role which enables Tokyo’s military to fight abroad signals a huge policy change from its conventional isolation for the first time since World War Two when the country was attacked by the US nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  

“The security situation surrounding Japan is increasingly severe,” Abe told reporters after the bill was adopted on Thursday, by adding that, “These bills are necessary to protect Japanese people’s lives and prevent a war before it breaks out.”

But the Japanese public still seems ambivalent and not satisfied with Abe’s re-assertive foreign policy as the legislation allows Japanese troops’ deployment in the overseas territories in order to assist the US-led international coalitions in Iraq, Syria or elsewhere in the conflict regions.  

The beheading of two Japanese nationals last year by ISIS had sparked outrage among the Japanese people who immediately became discontent with Abe’s foreign policy and security intentions.

According to a weekend poll, Abe’s popular acceptance fell to 35 percent that is the lowest level since he came to power in 2012.

"We hope to explain to the public that the bills are necessary amid a harsher security environment around Japan," the Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Tuesday when he was asked about the public reactions to recent security bill.


TRTWorld and agencies