| DAVOS, Switzerland
DAVOS, Switzerland Jan 22 Tensions between
Tokyo and Beijing took centre-stage at the World Economic Forum
in Davos on Wednesday as Japan's prime minister called for
military restraint in Asia and a senior Chinese academic branded
him a troublemaker.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended his visit to a
controversial shrine to Japan's war dead, which outraged China
and South Korea, and took a veiled swipe at China's military
buildup in his speech to global business leaders.
Sino-Japanese ties, long coloured by what Beijing considers
Tokyo's failure to atone for its 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. Strategic experts in Davos said their tensions
posed the biggest risk of conflict around the world in 2014,
along with hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
"We must ... restrain military expansion in Asia, which
could otherwise go unchecked," Abe, the first Japanese leader to
give the keynote address, said in a speech dominated by a
defence of expansionary economic policies dubbed Abenomics.
"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."
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
Abe said the Yasukuni Shrine honours the dead of World War
One and the 1868 Meiji war, not just war criminals or others who
died in World War Two, and it also contains a memorial to all
the victims of war regardless of nationality.
Previous prime ministers had gone to the shrine, he said,
noting he had made a commitment on his visit to ensure that
Japan never again became involved in a war.
His stance draw sharp criticism from Chinese academic Wu
Xinbo, speaking on another Davos panel, who branded the Japanese
leader a "troublemaker" and equated him with North Korea's
Wu, whose views usually reflect those of the Chinese
leadership, said trust between the two countries was very low,
chiefly because of Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which had
fanned public hostility in China.
While neither China, Japan nor the United States had an
interest in war, relations were set to remain very tense, he
said, adding that Beijing and Tokyo should develop a crisis
"Political relations between our two countries will remain
very cool, even frozen for the remaining years of Abe in Japan,"
said Wu, professor of international studies at Fudan University
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.
Asked by WEF president Klaus Schwab whether Japan's issuance
of even more government debt to fund the stimulus programme
might not break the country, Abe said it was only by reviving
growth that Tokyo could increase tax revenue to pay down the
John Chipman, chief executive of the International Institute
for Strategic Studies, said the best prospect for avoiding an
escalation of disputes between the two Asian powers lay in quiet
military-to-military discussions to seek confidence building
Both Abe and Wu called for Japan and China to develop crisis