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Japan's PM 'using China threat to garner support'
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Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso's latest portrayal of China as a nuclear threat was a political trick to gain domestic support and justify Tokyo's military growth, Beijing-based experts said yesterday.

Aso called for a unified international effort to push for nuclear nonproliferation in Prague on May 4 and noted "recent activities in China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) were threatening security in Asia."

The Japanese prime minister made the comment while attending the Japan-EU summit, less than a week after he met Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao late last month in Beijing.

The security in Northeast Asia is increasingly tough, Aso added, pointing out the DPRK's recent rocket launch and China's modernization of its nuclear arsenal.

He also expressed Japan's intention to host a conference on global nuclear disarmament in 2010.

But analysts in Beijing yesterday said Aso's criticism of China was no surprise considering his efforts to improve his popularity with the Japanese public.

To that end, the Japanese leader had to appear tougher in foreign affairs, they told China Daily.

"It's the same old trick of talking about one thing now and another thing later. The comments do not reflect Japan's real nuclear policy," said Professor Liu Jiangyong, a researcher on Asia-Pacific issues at Tsinghua University.

Liu said a common ground on destroying nuclear weapons was reached long ago between the two Asian powers in the China-Japan Joint Declaration in 1998.

"Both sides stress the importance of the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons and oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons in any form whatsoever," read the declaration.

"Japan's activities ignored the consensus that has already been reached," Liu said. "This is bad for Japan's international reputation."

"Today's focus should not just be on how Japan portrays China, but more about how the Chinese public see their country's nuclear policy and the facts surrounding it," Liu said.

Li Daguang, a senior military expert at the National Defense University, said Aso's efforts to portray its neighbors as threats were to justify its military development.

He said the Japanese government often raises the subject of a Chinese threat with the international community in order to seek support for boosting its military power.

"It picks China, but have never challenged the US for its nuclear policy," he added.

Also on May 4, Cheng Jingye, director-general of the arms control and disarmament department of the Foreign Ministry said that the country's non-proliferation policy has been consistent.

(China Daily May 7, 2009)

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