Beijing warned Washington on Tuesday to "stay vigilant" about Japan and not to be "permissive or supportive" of Tokyo's provocations as Chinese and US defence chiefs vowed wider cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
In a "candid, constructive and productive" discussion, Defence Minister Chang Wanquan told visiting US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel that the US should respect China's core interests as Washington is implementing a pivot strategy to the region.
Chang asked the United States to keep Japan "within bounds" and criticised the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"It is Japan who is being provocative toward China," Chang said at a news conference after talks with Hagel.
"If you come to the conclusion that China is going to resort to force against Japan, that is wrong."
Hagel, meanwhile, struck a belligerent tone at the news briefing by claiming that China did not have the right to establish an Air Defence Identification Zone in the airspace over China's Diaoyu Islands without consulting other countries.
He also said that the US will protect Japan under treaty obligations.
Chang said that China "will not take the initiative to stir up trouble" with Japan, but it would use military force, if necessary, to defend its territory.
"We will not compromise, nor concede, nor trade on territory and sovereignty. We will not tolerate these being infringed upon, even the least bit," he said.
He said that remarks and provocation from the Abe administration have caused severe difficulties for China-Japan relations.
He also said that the Philippines has illegally occupied parts of China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea and "disguised itself as a victim".
However, the defence chiefs also mentioned areas of broad agreement, including the willingness to build a new model of military-to-military relations, a consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama.
China and the US will work to establish mutual notification of major military activities and standards of behaviour for air and naval military safety on the high seas.
On greater military-to-military communication, new formal procedures will allow armies to better communicate with each other, and an Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue, involving high-ranking defence officials from both countries, will also be established.
China and the US will conduct a joint military medical exercise after the Pacific Rim military exercise led by the US later this year.