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Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005

China buildup on Defense Agency radar

Sub intrusion, other marine incidents merit monitoring: annual report


Staff writer

Tokyo is monitoring China's rapid military buildup and remains on alert in the wake of recent incidents, including the intrusion of a submarine into Japanese territorial waters and frequent operations by its marine research vessels nearby, according to an annual report on defense released Tuesday.

The defense white paper, endorsed by the Cabinet, notes that China's defense budget increased by more than 10 percentage points over the past 17 years.

"It is necessary to keep paying attention to these modernization trends and to carefully evaluate whether the modernization of China's military forces exceeds the level necessary for its national defense," the paper says.

The report was made public following the Pentagon's assessment on China's military, released earlier this month. It said Beijing's military buildup poses a long-term threat to regional powers, including Japan and India.

The white paper says Tokyo is "closely monitoring" activities by China's naval vessels navigating near Japan's territorial waters.

The most notable case took place last November when a submerged Chinese nuclear-powered submarine briefly intruded into Japanese territorial waters, resulting in diplomatic tension between Tokyo and Beijing, the paper notes.

Tokyo is also concerned that China's gas field project in the East China Sea will suck up resources on the Japanese side of the median line drawn by Japan as the demarcation of the two countries' exclusive economic zones, it adds.

"We have to be good friends with China as a neighboring country," Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono told reporters. "To do so, we urge China to be more transparent" on its military budget and activities.

The report says North Korea's military activities, including Pyongyang's nuclear arms and missile programs, are increasing tension on the Korean Peninsula and are "unstable factors" affecting security in East Asia, including Japan.

It says North Korea's nuclear arms program may be "considerably advanced" in light of the North's repeated remarks that it has developed atomic weapons, although the paper does not elaborate.

The Self-Defense Forces need to be more prepared to deal with "new threats" the nation faces, including terrorist attacks, ballistic missile attacks and large-scale natural disasters, the white paper says.



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