BEIJING/TOKYO - Two of China's top newspapers accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday of dangerous politics that could threaten regional security, as Tokyo warned Beijing not to expand gas exploration in disputed waters of the East China Sea.
The People's Liberation Army Daily said Abe was trying to play the "China threat" angle, to win votes in July 21 elections, with a visit on Wednesday to Japan's southern island of Ishigaki, near islets claimed by both China and Japan.
Territorial claims by Japan and China over the uninhabited islets and resource-rich waters in both the East China Sea and South China Sea rank as one of Asia's biggest security risks.
During the visit to Ishigaki island, Abe repeated Tokyo's stand that the nearby disputed Senkaku islands, called the Diaoyu by China, are inherent Japanese territory, adding that he has no intention of conceding even one step.
"This kind of 'drinking poison to slake ones thirst' not only threatens regional stability, it gives encouragement to Japan's 'turn to the right'," said the daily.
Abe wants to revise Japan's constitution, drafted by the United States after World War Two, to formalize the country's right to have a military. Critics say his plan could return Japan to a socially conservative, authoritarian past.
The People's Liberation Army Daily said Abe could not have chosen a worse time to visit Ishigaki, which lies some 160 km (100 miles) from the uninhabited islets the two nations contest.
"You cannot criticise a national leader for visiting his country's own territory but in a situation where the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands is continuing and the situation is complex and sensitive, Abe's actions are doubtless extremely dangerous and irresponsible," the paper, the official publication of China's military, said in a commentary.