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China military lashes out at Japan's defence moves

By Mary Kwang, The Straits Times, 1 September 2000

A Liberation Army Daily commentary says Japan plans to launch spy satellites but Tokyo says they are meant to gather weather information

BEIJING -- China's military mouthpiece yesterday escalated Sino-Japanese tension by lashing out at Tokyo's plans to launch three reconnaissance satellites and reports of Japanese moves to set up an island defence force.

The Liberation Army Daily, in a commentary, said: In recent days, Japan has taken two new actions consecutively: it has decided to launch three spy satellites before the end of March, 2003, and it has decided to set up an island defence force to counter the activities of Chinese vessels in waters near Japan.

These two moves are aimed at China, said the paper, citing unnamed experts. The commentary also said that they were linked to Japan's Defence White Paper released earlier this year that had called for vigilance against Chinese military trends.

Yesterday's article seemed to be a reaction to Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono's remarks in Beijing this week that some Japanese viewed China's growing missile arsenal and rising military spending as a threat to Japan's security.

In a speech at the Central Party School on Wednesday, Mr Kono had said that China's possession of missiles and annual increases in defence expenditure, the products of which were exhibited during the grand parade held last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China, had raised deep concerns among the Japanese people.

In its commentary, the Liberation Army Daily also alleged that the satellites would provide intelligence to the island defence force, which itself was part of plans by Japan to boost its defence on its western shores facing China.

The spy satellites have a bigger purpose which is to gather intelligence for the Japanese-US theatre missile defence system, it said.

Over the last two years since the TMD scheme was announced, Beijing has voiced its vehement opposition to the system which it sees as targeted at China.

Asked for comments on the article, Japanese delegation spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura said: Reports about the island defence force are speculation.

I oppose the use of the word "spy' to describe the satellites. I don't think we are trying to launch spy satellites, he said, adding that the devices would be used to gather information such as on the weather.

We should set aside distrust. Japan and China can cooperate and work for regional stability together. Mr Kono had said that building up distrust was not useful. We must stop this kind of unfortunate growing distrust between the two peoples.

Mr Kono, who concluded his four-day visit to Beijing yesterday, had called for the setting up of an early-management system between the two nations to resolve any budding problems so that overall bilateral relations would remain intact.