Japan expressed serious concern over joint exercises between China and Russia in its annual defense report, calling the military drills by its nuclear-armed neighbors clear and deliberate provocations.
(Bloomberg) — Japan expressed serious concern over joint exercises between China and Russia in its annual defense report, calling the military drills by its nuclear-armed neighbors clear and deliberate provocations.
The new language came in a so-called defense white paper approved by the government on Friday. China and Russia conducted six joint military exercises last year — the most in data going back two decades and accounting for two thirds of all of China’s joint drills.
Japan has territorial disputes with both countries and its relations with Russia have turned increasingly sour since Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion on Ukraine last year. In a break with its pacifist traditions, Tokyo has provided non-lethal military aid to Kyiv.
Japan’s Defense Ministry expressed particular concern in the report about joint Chinese-Russian patrols by bombers that were staged while Japan was hosting a summit of leaders of fellow Quad group members US, Australia and India in May 2022. The ministry also refers to a “one-sided escalation” of Chinese military activity in the vicinity of Japan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said later at a regular press briefing in Beijing that her government filed a diplomatic complaint with counterparts in Japan over the white paper.
The document “interferes in China’s internal affairs,” she said, adding that “it deliberately hypes up the China threat narrative and creates tensions in the region.”
While Russia and China have stepped up their military cooperation, Japan has also sought to deepen its defense ties with a variety of partners beyond its formal treaty ally, the US. That has included South Korea, with whom formerly rocky ties have turned more positive under President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has backed hawkish policies toward China and North Korea.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida this month attended the NATO summit for the second consecutive year, agreeing on a plan to deepen cooperation with the bloc. China has warned the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against expanding its geopolitical reach and said Japan should be “prudent on military and security issues.”
The report is the first of its type to be published since Japan adopted new defense policy documents last year and laid out plans to increase military spending by about 60% over five years.
It also comes as China and Russia dispatched high-powered delegations this week to North Korea for celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of Korean War fighting. The three countries are considered by Japan and its partners as posing the greatest security threat to the region.
–With assistance from Martin Ritchie.
(Updates with response from China.)
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