Japan’s annual defense review has accused China of pushing land claims under the guise of the coronavirus pandemic and claims that Beijing is spreading propaganda and misinformation by providing medical aid to countries fighting COVID- 19.
China “continues to try to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” Japan said in the defense white paper approved Tuesday by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The white paper describes the “relentless” intrusions into the waters around a group of islets claimed by the two nations in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
In the South China Sea, he said, Beijing was asserting land claims by establishing administrative districts around disputed islands that have forced countries distracted by the coronavirus epidemic to respond.
Japan’s criticisms of China echo similar comments made by the United States, and arise as tension in the region increases, as Beijing and Washington conduct separate military exercises in the Sea of Resource-rich southern China and relations between the world’s two largest economies are deteriorating.
|Japan asserts Senkaku Islands claim in dispute with China and Taiwan|
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday rejected China’s disputed claims about offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, saying they were “completely illegal”.
Beijing insists that its intentions on the waterway are peaceful.
Longer term threat
Japan views China as a longer-term and more serious threat than nuclear-armed North Korea. Beijing now spends four times more than Tokyo on defense, because it expands and modernizes its army.
The defense review of Japan also claimed that China appeared to be responsible for “propaganda” and “misinformation” amid “social uncertainty and confusion” caused by the coronavirus epidemic.
Such misinformation included online claims that the coronavirus had been brought to China by a member of the U.S. military, or that Chinese herbal remedies could treat COVID-19, said a defense ministry official. during a press briefing.
Other threats Japan faces include North Korea’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, as well as a resurgence of Russian military activity in the skies and waters of Japan, sometimes during joint exercises with China, said the defense review.