China's military lashed out Saturday at Japan's plans to boost defense spending, accusing Tokyo of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security, saying it "resolutely opposes" the five-year defense plan adopted by its rival earlier this week.
Japan "continues to deny its history of World War II aggression, challenge the post-war order, and harm the feelings of the people of those victimized nations," Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.
Under the arrangement adopted Tuesday, Japan will raise defense spending by 5 percent over the next five years to purchase its first surveillance drones, more jet fighters and naval destroyers, and set up an amphibious unit similar to the U.S. Marines. Other outlets have reported that Japan will increase its military spending by 2.6 percent. To achieve that smaller spending increase, Japan will reportedly use streamlining measures to cut costs.
China's strongly worded statement marks the latest salvo in the ongoing string of accusations over who is responsible for a sharp rise in tensions in the East China Sea.
Broader defense program guidelines also adopted Tuesday say Japan is "gravely concerned" about China's growing maritime and military presence in the East China Sea, and its lack of transparency and "high-handed" approach. Late last month, China said all aircraft entering a vast zone over the East China sea must identify themselves and follow China's instructions.
China's military has taken an increasingly hawkish stance amid a bitter dispute with Tokyo over uninhabited islands in the sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Japan's nationalization of the islands in September 2012 sparked violent demonstrations in several Chinese cities. In the months since, Chinese patrol vessels have routinely confronted Japanese ships in the area, sparking fears of an incident.
The military spending increase was seen as the clearest sign since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office a year ago that he wants to raise the country's military profile to meet what he says is a threat from China's rapid military buildup.
Geng, meanwhile, accused Japan of manufacturing fears of Chinese aggression and denying responsibility for having invaded China and other countries in the last century.
He accused Japan of maintaining a "Cold War mentality" that runs counter to the trends of peaceful development, cooperation and mutual benefit.
"We urge Japan to reflect deeply on its history, strictly adhere to its commitment to peaceful development, and take concrete measures to improve relations with its neighbors to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and development," Geng said.
Ties between the world's second- and third-largest economies have for years been strained by what China says is Japan's refusal to confess to atrocities committed by its soldiers between 1931 and 1945.
But even amid diplomatic spats, Japan remains one of China's largest foreign investors. In the 20 years to 2012, Japan was the sixth-biggest military spender in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China, by contrast, leapt to second place from the seventh after it hiked its defense spending by more than five-fold.