Japan-India ties cause of concern to China: State media

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, left, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pose for photographs before their scheduled talks in New Delhi .AP file photoJapan's move to lift decades-old ban on arms exports and its efforts to strengthen defence ties with India are a cause of concern to China, the state-run media here said.

Japan's decision, which would allow its companies to take part in arms development projects with countries other than the US, was followed by a USD 15 billion currency swap deal between Japan and India, 'China Daily' reported.

Japanese and Indian navies are also expected to hold their first joint drill next year. The daily noted that Japan had just concluded its first-ever trilateral dialogue with the US and India in Washington.

Japan's moves toward boosting its military might will send alarming signals across Asia, it quoted Shi Yinhong, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, as saying. An arms trade between Japan and India may further deepen tensions in the Asia-Pacific because China is a potential target of the two evolving strategic partnership, Zhao Gancheng, director of the South Asia research department at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, claimed.

"In terms of political safety, (Japan) wants to counter China by linking with countries such as the US, India and Australia. But on the other hand, it is aware of the fact that Sino-Japanese relations are a prerequisite for its quest to become a normal country. So personally, I think the policy is itself contradictory," Zhao was quoted as saying.

Nonetheless, Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japan studies at Tsinghua University, said Tokyo's incentives are primarily economic. Liu said the long-term impact of this latest policy change will be detrimental for China.
"From now on, Japan can export weapons to its neighbours and allies such as India, the Philippines and Australia. At first, these may be for maritime security. But offensive weapons may eventually enter the picture, because that's the only way to fuel its indigenous defence industry," he said.

"When these countries engage in maritime disputes with China - that's when the impact of this policy may come to affect us," Liu said. Pan Zheng, a researcher at the National Defence University, called the Japanese move "a serious violation of the Peace Constitution".

The move's impact, he said, will be extremely significant as "Japan broadens its own military influence through boosting military cooperation with other countries in the name of arms trade".

The ban's removal will allow Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd in Japan to take part in the production of parts of the fifth-generation F-35 fighter together with Lockheed Martin Corp of the US. Japan picked the fighters for its Self-Defence Forces last week.

It will also help the country to offset some of the costs by exporting components to other F-35 buyers. The US played a supporting role in making the policy change happen, said Teng Jianqun, a researcher at China Institute of International Studies.

Geng Xin, Deputy Director of the Japan-China Communication Institute, said "I don't think this is anything to be alarmed about. The Sino-Japanese relationship has long been rife with quarrels and doubts, and this might just be another episode in this history."

"Both countries have their own internal drives. And a considerable amount of disagreements will persist in the future. But disagreements haven't escalated into open warfare for decades," he said in a write-up in another official daily 'Global Times'. Direct conflict between China and Japan is unlikely as the two countries are economically co-dependent.

China remains Japan's biggest trading partner, contributing USD 2,300 per capita in trading income to Japan, double the amount from the US, he said. Also, Geng said, this strong bond between the two countries is not something that will be shaken by the US, whose recent expansion of its political influence in the region is quite alarming.

As the two biggest foreign owners of US public debt, it only makes sense for Japan and China to form a coalition against the "return to Asia" by the US, he said.

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