Japan has accused China of pushing its territorial claims under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic.
China “is continuing to attempt to alter the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea”, Japan said in its annual defence review approved by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s government on Tuesday.
In recent years, tensions have increased over the territory in the South China Sea, where China has been building military bases. The region is also claimed by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The white paper said that Beijing was asserting territorial claims In the South China Sea by establishing administrative districts around disputed islands that forced countries distracted by the coronavirus outbreak to respond.
On Monday, the United States declared declares “most” of China’s maritime claims in the waters illegal. In a lengthy statement, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said that China’s “campaign of bullying to control” the disputed waters was wrong and that Beijing had “no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region”: “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire”, Pompeo said.
Japan’s document also said that China appears to be responsible for “propaganda” and “disinformation” amid “social uncertainties and confusion” caused by the coronavirus outbreak.