TOKYO: China and South Korea on Friday lashed out at a Japanese foreign relations report that stood firm on territorial claims which have put Tokyo on a collision course with its Asian neighbours.
An angry South Korea summoned Japan's ambassador in response to the annual paper, while Beijing warned that Japan was "turning a blind eye to basic facts" and making "ungrounded accusations against China".
The foreign ministry-issued document, called the "diplomatic blue book", said the security environment in Asia Pacific has become "increasingly more severe" with emerging powers such as China and India expanding their global presence.
Tokyo has renewed its claim to islands in the East China Sea, also claimed by Beijing, and sovereignty over a disputed island chain known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea.
The report criticised China's efforts to "change the status quo by force" in the region, and said Beijing's territorial claims amounted to "assertions incompatible with the existing order of international law".
Beijing has claimed ownership of almost all of the South China Sea, angering other regional neighbours including the Philippines.
It has also routinely sent ships near Tokyo-controlled islands called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, triggering air and sea skirmishes.
China set a new air defense zone over the islands last year, sparking sharp protest from the United States, Japan and South Korea.
The blue book said the Japan-US alliance had become even more important to counter China, with the close ties underscored by a US decision this week not to send a warship to a naval ceremony in China after learning Japan was not invited.
US President Barack Obama is due to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month in Japan as part of Washington's bid to boost its regional influence.
'Deliberate action to stir up tensions'
But the paper on Friday added that Japan would try to improve thorny relations with China as Asia's two biggest economies "share responsibility" for peace and stability in Asia and beyond.
Beijing dismissed the report, and made an apparent reference to Abe's efforts to turn pacifist Japan's Self-Defence Forces into a regular army.
"The new version of the diplomatic blue paper turns a blind eye to basic facts, and maliciously makes unfounded accusations against China," Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular press briefing in Beijing.
"Peace and development is the trend of the times. What Japan has done is to make excuses to serve its diplomatic purposes of arms expansion and war preparation. This is a deliberate action to stir up tensions."
South Korea summoned the Japanese ambassador Friday over what it saw as a fresh move by Japan to stake its claim and a plan to promote the stance in all elementary school textbooks.
"Our government expresses strong regret at Japan's outrageous claim on our indigenous territory, Dokdo," Seoul's foreign ministry said.
Japan's repeated claim will not only "severely" damage bilateral ties, but threaten peace and security in Northeast Asia, it added.
Relations between Tokyo and Seoul have sunk to their worst level in years, mired in emotive disputes linked to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, particularly Japan's use of so-called "comfort women" from Korea and other Asian nations as sex slaves in wartime brothels.
Japan's aggressive expansion across Asia in the first half of the 20th century still evokes bitter memories among its neighbours, especially China and South Korea. -AFP