CHINA - The Chinese Ministry of National Defence confirmed yesterday that a large transport aircraft is being developed as part of the military's modernisation drive.
The long-range aircraft, the Y-20, will improve the military's air transportation, according to ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, who spoke to reporters at a news briefing in Beijing.
The move is not only in line with the military's modernisation, but also serves the purposes of providing disaster relief and assistance in emergency situations.
"Research and development is proceeding as planned," he said, without saying when the aircraft will make its debut. He added that the development needs to undergo a series of phases such as designing, experiments and trials, because "the technology is complicated".
While commenting on Japan's recent activities in the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands, Yang said the Chinese military "closely monitors" Japan's actions and is "highly vigilant".
Japan sent fighter jets to the islands, which belong to China, on Saturday after it saw a Chinese marine surveillance plane conducting routine patrols.
"We will decisively fulfil our tasks and missions while coordinating with relevant departments, such as the maritime supervision authority, so as to safeguard China's maritime law enforcement activities and protect the nation's territorial integrity and maritime rights," Yang said.
Relations between the two neighbours soured quickly in September after Japan's illegal "purchase" of some of the islands.
The Sino-Japanese military relationship is an important but also sensitive part of the two countries' ties, Yang said, and Japan should face up to the difficulties and problems that now exist.
And he also noted that a good and stable relationship is not only beneficial to the two countries, but also serves the interests of the entire region.
Masato Kitera, Japan's new ambassador to China, told reporters on Tuesday in Beijing that it is important for both countries to improve ties, while describing improving the relationship as his "top task".
Yang also mentioned China's strong opposition to an amendment to the US' 2013 National Defence Authorisation Act. The US Congress approved the military spending bill this month.
The amendment says the US takes no position on the sovereignty of the islands but recognises Japan's administration over them, placing them under Article 5 of the US-Japan security treaty. US President Barack Obama must still sign the bill for it to become law.
The amendment seriously violates China's sovereignty and domestic affairs, which undermine the building of a strategic mutual trust between the US and China, Yang said.
He added that it is justifiable for the Chinese military to provide security in waters under China's jurisdiction.
Xinhua contributed to this story.