Beijing: China on Wednesday said it was ready to "actively develop" ties with both Japan and India as the official media expressed apprehension over Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's maiden visit to New Delhi, raising concern that it could be part of an effort to "contain" China.
Noda concluded a two-day visit to China on December 26 during which some important agreements were reached on promoting Sino-Japanese ties.
As Noda headed to New Delhi, a Chinese official cautiously welcomed the development even as the official media commented in a different tone.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told the media here while responding to questions on reports that Japan is looking to develop close ties with India with an eye on China.
"Over the recent years China and India relations also maintained a momentum of good development. We believe China and India should keep political mutual trust and economic cooperation, as well as cooperation and coordination in international affairs," he said.
"We are ready to actively develop our relations with Japan and India. We welcome the mutual visits between Japan and India as well as their efforts to promote regional peace and development," Hong said.
Earlier, a report in the state-run China Daily said Noda's visit to India was part of Tokyo's attempt to strengthen its alliances with Asia-Pacific nations to "contain" China.
Boosting ties with India is part of Japan's strategy of strengthening alliances with Asia-Pacific nations with an eye on China, it quoted security analysts as saying.
The India-Japan summit is a continuance of Japan's "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity" strategy, which has been widely interpreted as an effort to contain China, Lu Yaodong, Director of the Department of Japanese Diplomacy at the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the daily.
Citing reports that Noda and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to sign a currency swap accord worth up to USD 10 billion besides discussing nuclear cooperation, the daily referred to Noda's comments that he would discuss political, security, economic and human exchange and Japan's readiness to help infrastructure projects in India with Singh.
"Japan and India have comprehensively boosted regional cooperation in recent years, not only in security but also in economic ties. And the cooperation has been moving from bilateral to multilateral, trying to include the United States, Australia and India in its 'Arc of Freedom and Prosperity'," Lu said. The "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity" is a pillar of Japan's diplomacy initiated in 2007 by former Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Aso. It has been interpreted as an effort to make allies to contain the rise of China in Asia-Pacific region, he said.
The report also noted that Noda's visit to India comes after the first round of trilateral talks in Washington last week among the US, India and Japan, and an India-Japan Defence Ministers' meeting in Tokyo in November.
There has been a renaissance in Japan-India relations since the 1990s, following their non-alignment during the Cold War, Takenori Horimoto, a professor of contemporary South
Asian politics at Shobi University said.
With New Delhi's post-Cold War economic liberalization policies, India has become a new market for Japan, Horimoto said.
"Meanwhile, the rise of China has meant that both Japan and India have increasingly eyed each other as potential strategic partners in the last five years," he said.
Difficulties in the US domestic economy have made it rely more on its Asian alliances to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, after the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and its gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan, the newspaper report said.
Another report in the same newspaper said Japan's decision to lift ban on arms exports would also pose a threat to China.
"The lifting of the ban paves the way for Japan's air and marine forces to upgrade their hardware capability.
So if we look at it over the long term, it will pose threats to China," Yang Bojiang, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of International Relations in Beijing, said.
The change could possibly reshuffle the international arms trade, and Japan's competitiveness in electrical equipment for military use may squeeze Russia's market share, he said.
"For Japan, it now breaks into a politically restricted area. But for the Asia-Pacific region, uncertainties have increased," Yang said.
Su Hao, director of the Asia-Pacific research centre at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the daily that Japan's relaxation of the arms export ban will complicate security in the Asia-Pacific region.
"As a further step to become a normal country, the allowance of arms exports will provide Japan a new way to boost ties with countries in East and Southeast Asia", Su said.
"More important, Japan must have gained the approval of the US before it announced it was lifting the ban. This suggests that the two countries are working in coordination to adjust their Asia-Pacific strategy. So, it (the relaxation of the ban) will have a negative effect on China," he said.