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Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2006
It's official: China not a threat
Japan does not classify China as a military threat because there is no indication of an intention to attack, the government said Tuesday in reversing remarks by Foreign Minister Taro Aso in December.
According to a written statement, Tokyo will deem a country a "threat" when it has both the intention and capability to attack Japan.
The government does not believe Beijing has any intention of attacking Japan, given the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique and the 1978 Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty, the statement said, without touching on China's military capabilities.
"We consider that a 'threat' would be actualized when capability and intension to invade are combined," the paper states.
Aso drew strong criticism both at home and abroad when he said in December that China is becoming a "considerable threat," pointing to the might of its forces and apparent lack of transparency in its military budget.
During the Cold War, Tokyo called the Soviet Union a "potential threat," saying it had the military capability to attack Japan but no clear intent to do so.
Calling China "a threat" would mean, according to government terminology, that Tokyo considers Beijing more militarily threatening than the former Soviet Union.
Tuesday's statement effectively corrected the remark by the hawkish Aso.
The statement was issued in response to a letter from Kantoku Teruya, a Social Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker.
How lawmakers describe the growing Chinese military is a sensitive issue.
In December, Seiji Maehara, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, called the Chinese military "a realistic concern" in a speech in English in Washington.
Maehara's speech immediately drew criticism from both Beijing and lawmakers of his own party because the speech's original Japanese word for "concern" was "kyoi," which is usually translated as "threat" in English.