China military urges vigilance over Japan's defense plan
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Defence Ministry on Saturday urged international vigilance of Japan's military plans after it unveiled an interim report calling for strengthened armed forces, including the possible acquisition of the ability to hit enemy bases.
Japan's proposal - its latest step away from the constraints of its pacifist constitution - is part of a review of defense policy by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, which released an interim report on the issue on Friday. Final review conclusions are due by the end of the year.
Japan's Defence Ministry also said it would consider buying unmanned surveillance drones, create a force of Marines to protect remote islands, such as those disputed with China, and consider beefing up the ability to transport troops to far-flung isles.
"The sections about China in this report by Japan are playing on the same old themes, exaggerating the military threat from China, and have ulterior motives," China's Defence Ministry said in a statement on its website (www.mod.gov.cn).
"This year, Japan has come up with all kinds of excuses to continue to expand its armaments ... creating tensions in the region. These moves deserve the highest vigilance from neighboring countries in Asia and from the international community," it said.
The hawkish Abe took office in December for a rare second term, pledging to bolster the military to cope with what Japan sees as an increasingly threatening security environment including an assertive China and an unpredictable North Korea.
Abe called on Friday for a leaders' summit or a foreign ministers' meeting between his country and China as soon as possible.
But Abe's appeal drew a cool reaction from China which accused Japan of lacking sincerity.
Over the past year, China's stand-off with Japan over a string of uninhabited rocky islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China has become more acrimonious.
China also believes that Japan has never properly atoned for its brutal invasion and occupation of parts of the country before and during World War Two.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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