China says US, Australia, Japan's troop rotation plan in Pacific will ‘undermine regional peace’

Beijing says US continues to form small circles with some of its allies, which only serve to undermine regional peace and 'this is neither welcomed nor supported'.

China says US, Australia, Japan's troop rotation plan in Pacific will ‘undermine regional peace’

China on Wednesday criticized the US plan to increase its military presence in Australia, as well as their decision to invite Japan to join the effort.

“Cooperation between the countries concerned needs to be conducive to regional peace and stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in response to Washington’s new plans for the Asia-Pacific region.

“The US keeps creating small circles with some of its allies. Such actions would only undermine regional peace and stability. This is neither welcomed nor supported,” Mao stressed at a news briefing in Beijing.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Tuesday that Washington will expand its military presence in Australia and has agreed with Canberra to invite Japan to join the effort.

Austin, who was speaking alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken as they hosted their Australian counterparts at the State Department, said the increased air, land, and sea troop rotations would include bomber task forces, fighter jets, and additional rotations of navy and army capabilities to expand logistics and other cooperation with Australia.

“That will deepen our interoperability and create more agile and resilient capabilities. We'll also continue to find ways to further integrate our defense industrial bases in the years ahead,” Austin told reporters.

Japan, Austin said, has been invited to "integrate into our force posture initiatives in Australia." However, he did not elaborate.

Earlier this week, a draft plan revealed that Japan is mulling increasing the number of its defense units over the next decade.

According to the plan, Japan is considering almost tripling the number of Self-Defense Forces units equipped with ballistic missile interception capabilities in the country's remote southwestern islands by the end of fiscal 2031.

Six of the seven units, being upgraded, will be stationed in the southern province of Okinawa, and one will be deployed on Amami-Oshima Island in southwestern Kagoshima province.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government is expected to raise Japan’s defense spending by up to 43 trillion yen (approximately $318 billion) from fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2027.

This would be a more than 50% increase over the current five-year spending plan, several Cabinet ministers said on Monday.

This development comes as friction between the US, its allies, and China has seen an uptick recently in the region as Washington leads the Quad in the wider region to contain Beijing’s expanding military and economic influence.

However, Beijing on Tuesday described Japan’s move to boost defense spending as a “very dangerous development.”

“(It) has led to serious doubts among Japan’s Asian neighbors and the wider international community about whether Japan will stick to its exclusively defense-oriented policy and the path of peaceful development,” Mao said.

“It has also been hyping up regional tensions to seek military breakthroughs. Japan needs to earnestly reflect on its history of aggression, respect the security concerns of Asian neighbors, act prudently in the field of military security, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability,” she said.

Quad is a loose security alliance that includes Japan, Australia, and India as well.

Beijing has pushed back the efforts, criticizing any effort to isolate the world’s largest populated country and the second-biggest economy.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have also exacerbated the situation, with Pyongyang launching dozens of missiles last month.

Japan currently hosts several US military bases with around 50,000 American soldiers under a bilateral security deal.