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Japan Defence Paper Urges Vigilance on China's Navy

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TOKYO - China's military modernization program, including apparent efforts to build a deep-water navy, needs to be monitored closely to see whether it exceeds the needs of self-defense, a Japanese government report said on Tuesday.

The annual defense white paper, which comes at a time when Sino-Japanese ties have been frayed by a series of disputes, follows a U.S. Defense Department report in July that said China's fast-growing military could pose a threat to the region.

The report noted the intrusion of a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine into waters off Japan's Okinawa islands in November as an example of increasing Chinese naval activity close to Japan.

"Including the incident ... involving the Chinese nuclear-powered submarine, Chinese naval vessels have been navigating in waters near Japan in recent years," it said.

China said the submarine entered Japanese waters by mistake.

The report, compiled by the defense ministry, said the Japanese public had become "exceedingly concerned" about the activities of Chinese vessels.

Japan has been urging China to explain the reason for the activities in hopes that greater transparency will deepen trust, the white paper said.

Japan is also concerned about Chinese gas exploration in the East China Sea near what Japan considers to be its exclusive economic zone, the report said.

Japan must be on guard against such activities, partly since China is said to be striving to expand its navy's reach, it said.

"Regarding the pick-up in China's maritime activity, the trends need to be watched has also been pointed out that the Chinese navy is aiming in the future to become a so-called 'blue-water navy'," the white paper said.

As in past years, the report also reiterated the need to monitor China's recent efforts to modernize its nuclear and missile forces.

"It is necessary to keep paying attention to these modernization trends to carefully evaluate whether the objective of the modernization of the military exceeds the scope needed for China's defense," the white paper said.

The report also said North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs were a worldwide concern.

North Korea shocked the world in 1998 when it fired a ballistic missile over Japan, prompting Tokyo's decision in December 2003 to buy a U.S.-made defense system.

"The issue of North Korea's development, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles, combined with the nuclear issue, is a factor that brings instability not only to the Asia-Pacific region but to the international community as a whole, and there is strong concern about such trends," it said.

Six-way talks aimed at persuading North Korea to scrap its nuclear arms programs resumed in Beijing last week after being stalled for more than a year.

But as the talks headed into a second week, envoys from North Korea, South Korea, Japan, the United States, Russia and China were struggling to agree on a joint statement.

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