BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Defense Ministry called Japan's plans to raise its military spending for the first time in 10 years deeply worrying for Asia and the world, saying on Saturday that it strongly opposes its neighbor's policy.
Japan said earlier this week it will lift military spending by 2.6 percent over five years, buying early-warning planes, beach-assault vehicles and troop-carrying aircraft.
It was seen as the clearest sign since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office a year ago that he wants to raise Japan's military profile to meet what he says is a threat from China's rapid military buildup and recent actions to back its claims to Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea.
China said Japan's military plans raise questions about whether Japan is going beyond its defense needs to build itself up as an offensive combat power.
"Japan, on the one hand, claims to be a peace-loving country, exclusively adhering to a defense policy. Yet on the other hand, it peddles a so-called 'active pacifism', " the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website.
"Where is Japan's military security policy actually going from here? This cannot but arouse strong concerns in its Asian neighbors and the international community," the ministry said.
Japan and China have been mired in an increasingly fiery row over ownership of tiny islands in the East China Sea, with tensions spiking last month when Beijing announced an air-defense zone over a wide area including the islands.
Ties between the world's second- and third-largest economies have for years been strained by what China says is Japan's refusal to confess to atrocities committed by its soldiers between 1931 and 1945. But even amid diplomatic spats, Japan remains one of China's largest foreign investors.
In the 20 years to 2012, Japan was the sixth-biggest military spender in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China, by contrast, leapt to second place from the seventh after it hiked its defense spending by more than five-fold.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)