China is growing might have replaced North Koreans belligerence as the main security threat to Japan, Tokyo’s annual defence review said on Thursday.
The document’s security assessment on China comes after a section on Japan’s ally, the United States, the first time Beijing has achieved second place in the Defence White Paper and pushing North Korea into the third position.
Russia, deemed by Japan as its primary threat during the Cold War, was in fourth place.
During a press briefing, Taro Kono, Minister of Defence said “The reality is that China is rapidly increasing military spending, and so people can grasp that we need more pages.
“China is deploying air and sea assets in the Western Pacific and through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan with greater frequency”, he added.
Japan has raised defence spending by a tenth over the past seven years to counter military advances by Beijing and Pyongyang, including defences against North Korean missiles which may carry nuclear warheads, the paper said.
Earlier this year, North Korea has conducted a number of short-range missile launches that Tokyo believes show Pyongyang is developing projectiles to evade its Aegis ballistic missile defences.
Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a limited trade deal that cuts tariffs on US farm goods, Japanese machine tools and other products while further staving off the threat of higher US car duties.
During a bilateral meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Trump and Abe signed the agreement they had reached during the G7 summit a month ago in Biarritz, France.
Japan will also gradually reduce tariffs on American beef and pork and cheese, as well as eliminate excises on almonds, walnuts, blueberries, currants, corn and broccoli altogether, according to the US foreign trade authorities.
China has frequently rebuffed concerns about its military spending and intentions, including a ramped-up presence in the disputed South China Sea, and says it only desires peaceful development.
South Korean government officials took issue with the White Paper’s reference to the ownership of an island in the Sea of Japan that is also claimed and controlled by South Korea.
The outcrop is known as Dokdo in Seoul and Takeshima in Tokyo.
“Our government strongly protests Japan’s repeated claim. The Japanese government should acknowledge that it is not helpful for bilateral relations,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.