BEIJING — China on Tuesday labeled Japan a ‘‘troublemaker’’ that is damaging regional peace and stability, firing back at earlier criticism from Tokyo over a spike in tensions in northeast Asia.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was responding to comments by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida that China’s military expansion in the region is a concern,
although Kishida stopped short of calling China a threat.
Hua told a regularly scheduled news conference that China’s military posture is purely defensive and Japan is stirring up trouble with its own moves to expand its armed forces and alter its pacifist constitution. She accused Japanese officials of making inflammatory statements aimed at denying or glorifying the country’s militarist past, and said Japan should explain its strategic intentions.
‘‘I think everybody will agree with me that Japan has already become a de facto troublemaker harming regional peace and stability,’’ Hua said.
Hua’s comments were the latest salvo in a war of words between the countries that has seen their diplomats invoke the villain from the Harry Potter books, Lord Voldemort, in describing each other’s motivations. Never very warm, bilateral ties took a nosedive after Japan in 2012 nationalized a string of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that China claims as its own.