TOKYO (AP) — Japan is concerned that China's increased naval operations in the western Pacific coupled with a lack of transparency over who sets the country's military agenda are posing a security threat in the region, according to its annual defense report released Tuesday.
As Chinese operations in the waters around Japan are becoming a routine occurrence, the report said uncertainty over how much power the military has in the decision-making process compared to the Communist Party leadership makes it difficult to understand the military's motives.
It said the strides China's military has made toward becoming a more powerful and more modern force has complicated its relationship with the Communist Party, though it said it remains unclear to the outside world whether the military has a stronger or weaker voice in national decision-making.
"Some see that relations between the Chinese Communist Party leadership and the People's Liberation Army have been getting complex," it said. "Others see that the degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions has been changing."
Japan has frequently criticized China in past reports for not being open enough about its military decision-making process, but Japanese Defense Ministry officials who briefed reporters said this is the first time it has raised the relationship between the military and the civilian leadership as an issue.
"China is still not living up to the expectations of transparency that would be hoped for from a great nation with responsibilities to the international community," the report said.
The report noted that China's defense budget has increased 30-fold over the past 24 years and that its navy is trying to improve its ability to operate in the open seas so that its ships can carry out missions farther away from its own shores.
It said that has meant more frequent Chinese activity in the East and South China Seas and "routine advancements to the Pacific Ocean by Chinese naval surface vessels."
Chinese military activity has been evident lately in territorial disputes that have raised regional tensions. Japan and China are at odds over the Senkaku islands — called Diaoyu in Chinese — and China's navy has been increasingly involved in disputes over islands in the South China Sea.