Japan has played up so-called "external threats" in recent years and greatly boosted its defence budget, and this tendency to return to the path of militarisation is "very dangerous", China's defence ministry said on Thursday.

Japan should stop doing things that harm regional peace and stability, Tan Kefei, spokesman at the Chinese defence ministry, said at a media briefing.

Japan, which renounced war in 1947, last year unveiled a five-year $315 billion military expansion to deter Beijing from using force in the East China Sea amid growing concern Russia's attack on Ukraine could embolden China to invade Taiwan.

Last month, Japan said it suspected Chinese surveillance balloons had entered Japanese territory at least three times since 2019.

"We urge the Japanese side to earnestly learn from the lessons of history, be cautious in words and deeds in matters of military security," Tan told reporters.

At the same time, China is planning a 7.2% increase in its defence spending

this year, outpacing last year's increase and faster than the government's modest economic growth target.

China's neighbours, including Japan, as well as the United States, are concerned by Beijing's strategic intentions and development of its military, especially as tensions have spiked in recent years over Taiwan.

Beijing says its military spending for defensive purposes is a comparatively low percentage of its economic output and that critics want to demonise it as a threat to world peace.

"What needs to be emphasised is that China's limited defence expenditure is entirely for safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and for maintaining world and regional peace and stability," Tan said. (Reporting by Ryan Woo Editing by Bernadette Baum)