BEIJING: China today lodged a diplomatic protest with Japan over its defence white paper which criticised Beijing's aggressive policies in the South and East China seas.
In the white paper of more than 560 pages, Japan devoted 34 pages to "unjustified criticism" of China's normal defence construction and military activities, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
Japan said in its defence white paper that "China has tried to change the status quo in the East China Sea and South China Sea based on its own assertions, and this has become a common concern of the region and the world at large."
Geng accused Japan of meddling in the South China Sea, saying China has lodged solemn representations with the Japanese side.
Geng reaffirmed that the will of the Chinese government to safeguard national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests is firm.
China claims almost all of South China Sea and also laid claims on the Senkaku islands under the control of Japan in East China Sea and resorted to aggressive patrols in the last two years.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the South China Sea.
Geng said conducting patrols and law-enforcement activities in waters off the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands is China's inherent right and Japan is in no position to point fingers at those activities.
The Chinese side, carrying out normal sea and air activities in accordance with international law, relevant domestic laws and regulations as well as national defence needs, is beyond reproach, he said.
The construction of necessary and appropriate facilities by the Chinese side in some reefs and islands of the Nansha Islands is a legitimate right granted to sovereign states by international law, which has nothing to do with militarisation and does not pose a threat to regional security, Geng said.
With the concerted efforts of countries in the region, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilised, he said.
China and ASEAN countries are focusing on strengthening cooperation to promote a comprehensive and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and jointly develop regional rules, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
On Sunday, China and ASEAN foreign ministers adopted a framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, said Geng, noting that all parties affirmed the positive situation in the South China Sea and highly appreciated the early cooperation results, such as the China-ASEAN senior diplomats hotline.
Geng hoped that Japan would respect the efforts made by China and ASEAN countries in safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea, stop intervention in the South China Sea issue, and play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and stability.
In the recent years, Japan has drawn broad attention from countries in the region and international community as it sharply adjusted its military security policy and attempted to make excuses for developing its armed forces and amending the constitution by exaggerating neighbouring safety threats, Geng said.
He urged the Japanese side to learn lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development and act prudently in military security.
"We hope that the Japanese side could do more to help enhance mutual trust with China and other neighbouring countries and to safeguard regional peace and stability," he said.