DAVOS Jan 22 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Wednesday for military restraint in Asia, vowing that Japan would never again wage war, while taking a veiled swipe at China's military buildup.
Sino-Japanese ties, long coloured by what Beijing considers Tokyo's failure to atone for its brutal occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two, have deteriorated in the past two years over a territorial dispute, Abe's visit to a shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's wartime past and a new Chinese air-defence zone.
Asia's two biggest powers each accuse the other of bellicosity.
"We must ... restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked," Abe told the annual Davos policy forum. He is the first Japanese prime minister to give the keynote speech at the gathering.
"The dividend of growth must not be wasted on military expansion," he said. "We must use it to invest in innovation and human capital, which will further boost growth in the region."
He added: "Japan has sworn an oath never again to wage a war... We will continue to be wishing for the world to be at peace."
Abe is pursuing a more assertive military and national-security policy, such as moving towards approving the use of force to help allies under attack and calling for debate on revising Japan's pacifist post-war constitution.
His government has ended years of declines in defence spending and plans modest increases in coming years. At the same time, Tokyo has criticised China's decades of hefty rises in military spending and implicitly accused Beijing of a lack of transparency in its defence budgets.
"Military budgets should be made completely transparent and there should be public disclosure in a form that can be verified," Abe said, following his government's custom of not naming China in such references.
He also called for resolving disputes through "dialogue and the rule of law, and not through force and coercion", a formula Japan has used to criticise China's actions including its abrupt declaration in November of an "air defence identification zone" overlapping the disputed East China Sea islets controlled by Japan.
"We must lay down rules that promote actions based on the international law of the sea," he said. "Only then, I believe, can we achieve growth and prosperity in Asia, where all of us can realise our great potential."
China demands that all aircraft flying through the zone identify themselves to Chinese authorities.
Japan has urged China to rescind the decision, and its military and civilian aircraft have defied the requirements, flying through the zone without notifying China. Japan's treaty ally, the United States, refuses to recognise the zone and has sent military aircraft through it.
Abe also reiterated his plans to revive growth in the world's third-biggest economy, increase the participation of women in society and review the portfolio of Japan's $1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund. (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)