East China Sea
Despite criticism of destabilising the regional military balance, Chinese naval vessels participated in a drill in the East China Sea China Daily/via REUTERS

China's defence ministry has angrily rejected Japan's claims that Beijing's regional military build-up is destabilising for its neighbours in the East and South China Seas. It expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with Japan's latest defence white paper, which raises "deep concern" over China's ability to flex its muscles in the Pacific.

A Chinese ministry statement said Tokyo's report is "full of malice toward the Chinese military". It charged that Japan was attempting to deceive the international community and sow dissension between China and its neighbours with claims that Chinese activities pose a threat to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

On Japan's criticism of Beijing's activities in the sea as autocratic and unilateral to change the status quo, the ministry said the report is "full of lousy clichés, makes irresponsible remarks on China's normal and legal national defence and military development (and) hypes up the East and South China sea issues", the Associated Press reported.

Japan says Beijing's intensifying presence in the disputed waters raises concerns about what the future holds for China and its opponents in the region. China has said it was Japan that was high-handed when it purchased some of the Chinese-claimed, but Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea from a private owner in 2012. The event sparked a major bilateral row.

"We urge Japan to stop its wrong words and deeds, in order to avoid 'shooting itself in the foot,'" the ministry said.

The statement reaffirmed Beijing's position on the Senkakus, which China calls as Diaoyu. It says China has enough "historical and legal basis" to claim them.

Heaping further scorn on Japan, the Chinese statement said: "The ultimate objective of Japan is to cook [up] excuses for adjusting by leaps and bounds its military and security policies and accelerating its arms expansion, even rewriting the pacifist constitution."

It cited its ministry spokesman Colonel Wu Qian while referring to Japan's legislation that was passed last year, relaxing post-World War II constraints on the Japanese military. The decision to amend the pacifist constitution was dubbed as the most controversial move in Japan's history.

Along with Japan, the US and Asia Pacific countries have criticised China over its military dominance but Beijing has consistently maintained that it has the right to build islands, complete with airstrips and harbours in the contested waters.