China on Wednesday accused the Philippines of creating tension in the region and urged Manila to show "sincerity" in upholding stability after President Benigno Aquino welcomed Japan's more assertive military policy.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made it clear on Tuesday he wanted an early agreement with his ruling party's dovish junior partner to ease constitutional curbs that have kept Japan's military from fighting abroad since World War Two.
Aquino said after meeting Abe that "nations of goodwill can only benefit if the Japanese government is empowered to assist others".
China's foreign ministry said Aquino's statement had complicated an already difficult situation.
"We think that the relevant country should earnestly show its sincerity, meet China halfway, rather than creating tensions and rivalry and adding new, complicating factors to the situation in the region," spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.
Hua urged Manila to "play a positive and constructive role" for peace and stability, "rather than the reverse".
Japan and the Philippines are locked in disputes with China over territorial claims, respectively, in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Sino-Japanese ties have also long been plagued by what Beijing sees as Japan's failure to atone for its often brutal occupation of parts of China in the 1930s and 1940s.
China’s latest published map shows its claim over the South China Sea by marking ten dash lines around the region just off the coasts of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. Photo credit: China Daily/ANN
"Because of historical reasons, China has maintained a high degree of concern about Japan's policy movements in the military and security fields," Hua said.
China, she said, hoped Japan would "understand and respect the legitimate concerns" of neighbouring countries.
State media earlier said China had unveiled a new official map of the country giving greater play to its claims on the South China Sea, making the disputed waters and its numerous islets and reefs more clearly seem like national territory.
Previous maps included China's claims to most of the South China Sea, but in a little box normally in a bottom corner to enable the rest of the country to fit easily onto a single leaf.
It was not clear, however, to what extent the map was new. Reuters was able to buy a very similar one, first printed last year, in one of Beijing's main book stores.
All on one map
The map described by media reports is longer and dispenses with the box. It shows continental China and its self-declared boundary in the South China Sea - stretching to the coasts of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines - on one complete map.
"The islands of the South China Sea on the traditional map of China are shown in a cut-away box, and readers cannot fully, directly know the full map of China," the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily said on its website.
The new map "has important meaning for promoting citizens' better understanding of ... maintaining (our) maritime rights and territorial integrity," an unnamed official with its publishers told the newspaper.
Hua told reporters people should not read too much into the issuing of the new map. "The goal is to serve the Chinese public. As for the intentions, I think there is no need to make too much of any association here," she said.
Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose said the publication of the map showed China's "unreasonably expansive claims" that he said contravened international law.
"And it is precisely such ambitious expansionism that is causing tension in the South China Sea," he told reporters.
Beijing claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea. Parts of the potentially energy-rich waters are also subject to claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Tensions have risen sharply in the region in recent months, especially between China and both Vietnam and the Philippines.
China deployed an oil rig in waters well within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone last month. Vietnam said Chinese ships have prevented its law enforcement vessels from operating in the area near the oil rig, many times by dangerously ramming and spraying water cannons at them.