Japan is exploiting an incident in which a Chinese ship used weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese naval vessel and helicopter to prepare the people of both countries for war, China’s state-run Global Times said.
“We believe, in doing this, Japan is at the same time also sounding a combat alarm among the Chinese and Japanese public,” the Chinese-language editorial said today. The Japanese account of the episode is one-sided and ordinary people who don’t understand naval affairs will believe the two countries are very close to war, it said.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday denounced China’s use of fire-control radar last month twice at Japanese targets in the East China Sea near islands claimed by both countries. The incident has undermined efforts to ease tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies and elicited calls from the U.S. for a diplomatic solution.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying today said relevant departments are investigating reports of the incident “in a serious and solemn manner.” Japanese naval ships and planes constantly conduct illegal activities in the area, she told reporters in Beijing.
The islands, called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, are in an area rich in oil, natural gas and fish. Japan’s purchase of three of the islands in September prompted violent protests in China that damaged Japanese businesses.
Abe today said the episode underscored the need to keep lines of communication open between the two countries, adding that summits are good forums for addressing conflicts.
“In high-level talks, we should protest what needs to be protested and make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again,” Abe told a parliamentary committee in Tokyo. “The Chinese method of diplomacy has been to bring everything to a halt when one aspect of ties deteriorates. I think this is a mistake.”
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told the same committee that no weapons had been trained on the Japanese destroyer, and that the Jan. 30 incident took place in what Japan regards as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone. The Japanese Foreign Ministry later released a statement calling the incident “provocative” and criticizing China for what it called “coercion and intimidation.”
Chinese people are used to tension in the East China Sea and many are already prepared for the “first shot” of conflict, the Global Times editorial said. Fewer people hold hopes for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, it said.
The Global Times is a tabloid-style newspaper under the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily. While the paper is supervised by the party’s propaganda department, officials including Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei say newspaper reports don’t necessarily reflect the government’s position.
China’s Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping called for “expanding and deepening” the military’s combat preparedness during a visit to a base in the western city of Lanzhou, the official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday.
The “locking on” of a military radar on a ship is a common and constant reconnaissance practice for regular missions, Jiang Xinfeng, an expert on Japanese studies at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, told the English-language China Daily newspaper today.
Using fire-control radar on another vessel can be an indicator of hostile intent, depending on the circumstances, according to a manual of rules of engagement written under the direction of the U.S. Naval War College.
The China-Japan situation is one “that could ultimately get out of hand,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday in Washington. “We urged, obviously, both the Japanese and Chinese to exercise good judgment here and to try and work with each other to try to resolve these issues peacefully.”