China has voiced deep disappointment over Japan's conduct in the South China Sea after Tokyo announced it may set up training patrols with the United States in the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing Monday that Japan's conduct in the South China Sea "makes one feel disappointed to the point of despair.”
Japan was attempting to throw the situation in the region into confusion, the Chinese spokesman added, noting the island nation had "even resorted to deception in attempts to impose its own views" on the issue on other countries.
The spokesman accused Japan of meddling in a situation that ought to be resolved via "direct negotiation between involved parties".
Lu also warned: "China is unwavering in its determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests."
The remarks come after Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada called China's actions a "deliberate attempt to unilaterally change the status quo, achieve a fait accompli, and undermine the prevailing norms."
In a speech last week, Inada, a close confidante of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with staunchly nationalist views, stressed that Japan would increase its engagement in the South China Sea through joint training cruises with the US Navy, capacity-building assistance to coastal nations and exercises with regional navies.
Japan, a key US ally, is boosting defense ties with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations that have their own territorial disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea.
China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have overlapping claims in the resource-rich sea.
Japan has a separate territorial dispute with China over uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
China has recently sailed four coastguard vessels into that contested region, sparking complaints from Japan.
China also claims the uninhabited East China Sea islets known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and occasionally sends coastguard vessels close to them, a move that angers Tokyo.
The South China Sea waters are believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas. The dispute has at times drawn in trans-regional countries, particularly the US.
The dispute has at times drawn in trans-regional countries, particularly the US.
China accuses the US of interfering in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea. Washington, in turn, accuses Beijing of carrying out what it calls a land reclamation program in the South China Sea by building artificial islands in the disputed areas.