BEIJING: China on Thursday accused Japan of deliberately exaggerating Beijing's military threat, underlining the suspicion with which Asia's two biggest economies view each other.
The accusation follows a defence white paper earlier this week in which Japan warned that China's naval forces were likely to increase activities around its waters. The two countries have long bickered over ownership of parts of the East China Sea, with the latest flare-up late last year.
China's foreign and defence ministries both rounded on the Japan's latest defence report, which laid out worries about China's military modernisation and expanding maritime reach.
China is close to launching its first aircraft carrier, a refitted former Soviet vessel, and sources told Reuters it was building two more.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu obliquely warned Tokyo not to stray from its longstanding defence posture and, in comments on the ministry website, criticised "irresponsible comments" in the white paper.
In a clear reference to Japan's military occupation of China before and during World War Two, which remains a thorn in relations, Ma said: "We hope that Japan will use history as a guide, and earnestly reflect on its defence policies, and do more to enhance mutual trust with its neighbours."
Defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said Japan was deliberately exaggerating the 'China threat' and acting out of ulterior motives, according to the ministry's website.
A Japanese defence ministry spokesman dismissed the charges. "China's assertion that (white paper) contains irresponsible comments is off the mark," he said.
China's defence budget has shot up nearly 70 percent over the past five years, while Japan -- tied by a public debt twice the size of its $5 trillion economy -- has cut its military outlays by 3 percent over the same period, the Japanese report said.
The Japanese white paper expressed concerns over China's rapid military buildup, the murkiness of its defence budget, and its assertiveness in dealing with international conflicts.
A commentary in Xinhua said Japan was intentionally creating tension.
"(Japan is) beset by a long-standing Cold War mentality, and is trapped in the myth of the Japanese-American alliance ... (it) has a powerful impulse to shed the constraints of the purely self-defence policy advocated in its post-war peace constitution."