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Japan Says China Considerable Threat

Tokyo (AFP) Dec 22, 2005
China is becoming a "considerable threat" because of its rising military spending and nuclear weapons, the Japanese foreign minister said Thursday in the latest rift between the neighbors. "It is a neighboring country that has nuclear bombs. Its military spending is posting two-digit growth and the content of that is not transparent," Foreign Minister Taro Aso told reporters, as quoted by Jiji Press.

"I think it is becoming a considerable threat," he said.

Aso, an outspoken hawk appointed in late October, sided with Seiji Maehara, head of the main opposition Democratic Party, who recently called China a "realistic threat".

"I think it is true that (China) is a threat and stirring up worry," Aso said.

His remarks came after the release of a new Chinese government paper reiterating Beijing's intention to rise peacefully into a global power.

"Building a harmonious world of sustained peace and common prosperity is a common wish of the people throughout the world as well as the lofty goal of China," the Chinese document said.

Relations between China and Japan have been badly strained of late, with Beijing angry over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo shrine that commemorates war criminals among the remembered dead.

China, which was invaded and occupied by Japan before and during World War II, says the pilgrimage shows Tokyo does not fully regret its militarist past.

Japan and China are also bitterly divided over gas reserves in the East China Sea, with Tokyo planning a major increase in patrols in the disputed area.

But China, with its vast labor pool and rising middle class, remains Japan's top trading partner. Data released Thursday showed Japan's trade surplus rising in November for the first time in eight months, with demand from China fuelling Japan's economic recovery.

Prominent ruling party lawmaker Taku Yamasaki said Thursday he would visit China next month in hopes of holding talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who declined to meet Koizumi at two recent regional summits.

Addressing business leaders later Thursday, Aso said Japan wanted to be the leader in Asia, where China's influence is steadily growing.

"Japan is the first country in Asia to complete a number of achievements: modernization, democratization, realizing a market economy, suppressing rising nationalism and closing the gap between rich and poor.

"As a democracy and market economy, Japan together with the United States has the power to be a stabilizing force," he said.

Koizumi's government has taken an increasingly hard line with China this year as Beijing moved to scupper Japan's hopes of getting a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Beijing argued that Japan needed to show more regret for the past before it was admitted to the council, where China is the only Asian country with permanent membership and veto power.

China saw some of its biggest rallies in years in April to protest Japan's Security Council bid and its approval of a history textbook that makes only passing reference to Japanese atrocities in the 20th century.

Aso's comments were more direct than defense guidelines Japan issued a year ago that warned of China's growing military muscle without using the word "threat."

The guidelines for defense policymakers said China was "pushing ahead with enhancing its nuclear and missile capabilities in modernizing its navy and air force" and said Japan needed to "watch these moves in the future."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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