TOKYO - Japan on Tuesday flagged as a potential risk a possible rise in Chinese military's role in shaping Beijing's foreign policy and said aspiring nuclear power North Korea remained a serious regional threat under its new leader.
In its annual defence white paper, Tokyo cited views that relations between China's army and the Communist Party were "getting complex" and said they were a matter of concern. It did not elaborate on how ties between the military and Party had changed.
"This situation calls for attention as a risk management issue," the paper said.
The report comes out at a time when China's senior officers, intelligence advisers and maritime agency chiefs have been increasingly outspoken in calling for Beijing to take a tougher line in regional territorial disputes with rival claimants.
In referring to those disputes, which include a long-simmering row with Japan in the East China Sea, Tokyo's views echoed the findings of a 2011 paper which welcomed China's growing role on the world stage while noting its increasingly aggressive moves.
"China has responded to conflicting issues involving Japan and other neighbouring countries in a way that has been criticised as assertive, raising worries about its future direction."
Just like a year ago, Tokyo also noted China's rapid military build-up, particularly that of its navy, pointing out that Beijing's defence budget has risen 30-fold in the past 24 years.
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As well as the Japan-China row over islets in the East China Sea, tensions have risen in the South China Sea as Beijing has become more assertive in its claim to the area in the face of opposition from neighbouring countries.
The stakes have risen in the region as the U.S. military has shifted its attention and resources back to Asia in the past year.
In the white paper, Tokyo reaffirmed the importance of its alliance with the United States. "The presence of U.S. forces stationed in Japan functions as deterrent against regional contingencies, and it brings the sense of security to countries in the region," it said.
The official reassurance comes against a backdrop of public protests against the planned deployment of U.S. Osprey military hybrid helicopter-planes to a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, because of concerns about their safety.
And in its first defence white paper since Kim Jong-un took over the reins of power in Pyongyang, Japan said the secretive state's militaristic strategy meant it remained a major security threat.
"After the death of National Defence Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il, First Chairman Kim Jong-un frequently visited the military and referred to the importance of the military. Its stance of regarding the military as important and relying on it will likely be maintained," it said.
"North Korea is working hard to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles ... Moves like this are heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula and constituting a grave destabilising factor for security in east Asia."
Japan, along with South Korea, sit well within the range of the North's medium-range Nodong missiles.