BEIJING, Oct. 29 -- Political elites in Tokyo are getting increasingly adept at using a distorted image of China to back up their political and military agendas.
Following a series of provocative remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera added fuel to the fire on Tuesday, saying Beijing was "jeopardizing peace" with its "intrusions" near the disputed Diaoyu Islands.
In an interview with a U.S. newspaper last Friday, Abe played the old trick of creating a false enemy, hinting that China might use force to change the region's status quo and break its word on pursuing peaceful development.
On the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, which are an inherent part of Chinese territory, it is Japan that is seeking to upset the regional status quo. Tokyo engaged in the farce of buying the Chinese land from private hands late last year, sparking frictions between Asia's two largest economies.
If there is a country in East Asia that seeks to boost its military power, it is Japan. The rightist Abe government took it further this year with a plan to revise a post-war pacifist constitution. The move, which would allow Japan to develop a full-fledged national army, put its neighbors on high alert due to the bitter memory of Japanese aggression in the Second World War.
Moreover, Japanese government members shamelessly worshipped at the notorious Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals. That is a brutal gesture of defiance of post-war international order.
Tokyo blames regional tensions on China, but it has apparently turned a deaf ear to the repeated messages from China's new leadership that the country will always stick to a peaceful path of development.
What is more worrisome is a thinly veiled attempt by Tokyo to depict China as an enemy in order to justify its military buildup. Once the largest economy in Asia, Japan still cherishes the hope of dominating regional affairs.
That expansionist ambition is what is behind Abe's remarks when he vows to "contribute more to making the world a better place."
To make the world a better place, Tokyo should adopt policies that contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region, instead of fueling tension and readying for war.
For Japan to truly take the lead in regional affairs, it must first face up to history and apologize for its wartime atrocities. A Japan refusing to acknowledge its military invasion in the past cannot convince its neighbors it will not try to repeat history in the future.
The ball is now in Japan's court. It is time for Tokyo to show sincerity and take action, rather than ignite a war of words.