China, Japan engage in new invective over disputed isles

BEIJING Fri Feb 8, 2013 1:50pm IST

Chinese marine surveillance ship Haijian No. 51 (R) cruises next to a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship, Akaishi, in the East China Sea near the disputed isles known as Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China, in this handout photo released by the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters-Japan Coast Guard February 4, 2013. REUTERS/11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters-Japan Coast Guard/Handout

Chinese marine surveillance ship Haijian No. 51 (R) cruises next to a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship, Akaishi, in the East China Sea near the disputed isles known as Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China, in this handout photo released by the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters-Japan Coast Guard February 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters-Japan Coast Guard/Handout

Related Topics

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Japan engaged on Friday in a fresh round of invective over military movements near a disputed group of uninhabited islands, fuelling tension that for months has bedevilled relations between the Asian powers.

An increasingly muscular China has been repeatedly at odds with others in the region over rival claims to small clusters of islands, most recently with fellow economic giant Japan which accused a Chinese navy vessel of locking radar normally used to aim weapons on a Japanese naval ship in the East China Sea.

China's Defence Ministry rejected Japan's complaint about the radar, its first comment on the January 30 incident. It said Japan's intrusive tracking of Chinese vessels was the "root cause" of the renewed tension.

A Japanese official dismissed the Chinese explanation for incident saying China's actions could be dangerous in the waters around the islets, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, believed to be rich in oil and gas.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led his conservative party to a landslide election victory in December, promising to beef up the military and stand tough in territorial disputes.

On Thursday, another border problem was brought into focus when Japan said two Russian fighter jets briefly entered its air space near long-disputed northern islands, prompting Japan to scramble combat fighters. Russia denied the accusation.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific said the squabble between Japan and China underlined the pressing need for rules to prevent such incidents turning into serious conflict.

"What we need in the South China Sea is a mechanism that prevents us turning our diplomacy over to young majors and young (naval) commanders ... to make decisions at sea that cause a problem (that escalates) into a military conflict that we might not be able to control," Admiral Samuel Locklear told a conference in the Indonesian capital.

China is in dispute with several Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines and Vietnam over parts of the South China Sea, which is potentially rich in natural resources.

Locklear said governments and their leaders had to understand the potential for things to get out of hand.

"In this case, I think that point has been made pretty clear," he said in reference to international reaction to the dispute between China and Japan.

"IRRESPONSIBLE"

China's Defence Ministry, in a faxed statement late on Thursday, said Japan's complaints did not "match the facts". The Chinese ship's radar, it said, had maintained regular alerting operations and the ship "did not use fire control radar".

The ministry said the Chinese ship was tracked by a Japanese destroyer during routine training exercises. Fire control radar pinpoints the location of a target for missiles or shells and its use can be considered a step short of actual firing.

Japan, the ministry said, had "made irresponsible remarks that hyped up a so-called China threat, recklessly created tension and misled international public opinion".

"Japanese warships and airplanes have often conducted long periods of close-range tracking and surveillance of China's naval ships and airplanes," the Chinese Defence Ministry said.

"This is the root cause of air and maritime security issues between China and Japan."

In Tokyo, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Japan could not accept China's explanation and Japan's accusation came after careful analysis.

"We urge China to take sincere measures to prevent dangerous actions which could cause a contingency situation," Suga said.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said this week that the radar incident could have become very dangerous very quickly, and it could have been seen as a threat of military force under U.N. rules.

Hopes had been rising recently for an easing of the tension, which was sparked, in part, by Japan's nationalisation of three of the privately owned islets last September.

Fears that encounters between aircraft and ships could bring an unintended clash have given impetus to efforts to improve links, including a possible summit between Abe and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who takes over as head of state in March.

(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg in TOKYO, Joathan Thatcher in JAKARTA; Editing by Ron Popeski and Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Downing Of Flight MH17

REUTERS SHOWCASE

New President

New President

Indonesian president-elect Jokowi calls for unity after bitter election.  Full Article 

Mideast Conflict

Mideast Conflict

Israel pounds Gaza despite international peace efforts.  Full Article 

Ukraine Crash

Ukraine Crash

Putin says will use influence on Ukraine rebels, denounces West.  Full Article 

Thai Coup

Thai Coup

Thai junta leader could be PM under interim charter - adviser.  Full Article 

Food Safety Scandal

Food Safety Scandal

Safety violations at McDonald's, Yum China supplier company-led - regulator  Full Article 

Death of a Spy

Death of a Spy

Britain does U-turn on ex-KGB agent Litvinenko murder inquiry.  Full Article 

Flights Affected

Flights Affected

U.S., European airlines halt flights to Israel due to instability.  Full Article 

Truce Plan

Truce Plan

Abbas-led Palestinian body backs Hamas truce demands in Gaza.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage