Japan is concerned that China's potentially dangerous maritime activities could lead to a "contingency situation" and Beijing should act according to international rules rather than by using force, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday in its white paper for 2013.
The white paper also expressed concern over North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs, saying the country's ballistic missiles are potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland -- a sign that the missile program has entered a new stage.
The annual report is the first to be published under the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and emphasizes key issues that could threaten Japanese sovereignty and security in view of an increasingly assertive China and defiant North Korea.
Abe is eager to revise the U.S.-drafted pacifist Constitution so Japan can exercise the right to collective self-defense, and hopes to strengthen his ruling Liberal Democratic Party's position in parliament at the upper house election in two weeks' time.
China's activities in the sea and the air include "dangerous actions that could cause a contingency situation" and are "extremely regrettable," according to the white paper approved by Abe's Cabinet on Tuesday.
Citing a January incident in which Japan says a Chinese navy frigate locked weapons radar on a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the East China Sea, the paper criticized Beijing for denying use of the radar and accused it of giving false explanations over the incident.
Tokyo and Beijing have been at odds with each other over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the sea and tensions have increased since the government purchased three of the five islands last September from their private Japanese owner.
China has since continued to send surveillance vessels into waters off the uninhibited islands, also claimed by China, putting Japanese authorities on alert.
To address issues of conflicting interests, "China has attempted to change the status quo by force based on its own assertion which is incompatible with the existing order of international law," the report said.
Japan says one of China's objectives is to "weaken the effective control of another country over the islands" and strengthen its claim to territorial rights "through various surveillance activities and use of force," calling on China to improve the transparency of its defense policy.
The paper also refers to unresolved territorial disputes with Russia over the Northern Territories, called Southern Kurils in Russia, and with South Korea over islets called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean.
Japan's latest assessment of the security environment immediately aroused the ire of South Korea and China.
South Korea criticized Japan for describing Takeshima as Japan's territory, and summoned a senior Japanese diplomat from the Japanese Embassy to lodge a protest. The islets are under the control of South Korea.
Beijing countered Japan's assertion that China's maritime activities are "dangerous," justifying them as being based on domestic and international laws. "The criticism (from Japan) is not warranted," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Abe's government is planning to compile defense guidelines to define the nation's longer-term defense policy by the end of the year, and the white paper provides an insight into the country's future defense posture.
"It is not necessarily possible to prevent invasions from outside by nonmilitary means such as diplomatic efforts," and defense capabilities are "the nation's ultimate guarantee of security" and "Japan's will and capacity to defend itself against foreign invasions," the paper said.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday the report reflects the government's commitment to protecting Japanese territories.
The white paper touches on the possibility of enabling Japan to attack an enemy base as an effective "deterrence" against ballistic missile threats, and states North Korea's nuclear tests and missile development pose "a threat" to security and "do considerable harm" to international peace and stability.
Abe is hoping to bolster Japan's defense capabilities built on the long-standing Japan-U.S. alliance. His government is trying to move ahead, despite local opposition, with the planned relocation of the Futenma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture, home to the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan.
The paper says that the Japan-U.S. bilateral security alliance is "indispensable" and the deployment in Okinawa of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft will contribute to peace and stability in the region.
The tilt-rotor aircraft's patchy safety records sparked worries when the first 12 units arrived at the Futenma air base in the southern prefecture last year. Another 12 planes are expected to be deployed in late July.
Other topics covered in the white paper include cybersecurity, an area that Japan sees as necessary to improve its ability to counter cyberattacks amid alleged involvement of government agencies in Russia, China, and North Korea.
On Tokyo's decision in March to allow domestic companies to join production of parts for the U.S. F-35 stealth fighters, an exception to Japan's long-standing ban on weapons exports, the paper says such participation will help protect, maintain, and develop the defense industry, and benefit the Japan-U.S alliance.