Senior Chinese military officials have admitted for the first time that a frigate locked its radar on a Japanese destroyer during the two nations’ spat over disputed islands, Kyodo News agency reported yesterday.
In one of the more serious incidents in an escalating row over ownership of the islands in the East China Sea, Tokyo said the Chinese vessel effectively had a Japanese ship in its sights earlier this year.
Beijing has consistently denied the allegation and has accused Tokyo of exaggerating the “China threat” in a bid to manipulate world public opinion against its giant neighbor.
However, Kyodo cited unnamed “senior Chinese military officials” saying the weapons targeting had taken place.
The officials, including “flag officers” — those at the rank of admiral — told Kyodo it was an “emergency decision,” not a planned action, and was taken by the commander of the frigate, the report said.
The Tokyo-datelined report said the comments were made “recently,” but gave no specifics.
The radar incident marked the first time the two nations’ navies have locked horns in the increasingly bitter spat over the Senkakus, which China and Taiwan also claim and call the Diaoyutais (釣魚台).
The Chinese officials told Kyodo that on Jan. 30, the frigate and the Japanese destroyer were 3km apart in international waters between 110km and 130km north of the outcrops, the report said.
The frigate commander directed the vessel’s weapons-targeting radar, based on the Chinese military’s rules of engagement, without seeking instructions from the fleet command or navy headquarters, Kyodo cited the Chinese officers as saying.
It was not known if the commander had been reprimanded, Kyodo said.
Tokyo has also charged that a Chinese frigate locked its radar on a Japanese helicopter in the middle of January.
China has denied the accusations, and Beijing’s defense ministry said yesterday that the truth was “very clear.”
“The Japanese allegation of Chinese navy vessels targeting warships and airplanes of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces with fire-control radar does not fit the facts,” the ministry said in a statement faxed to Agence France-Presse.
“The Japanese side speculates from time to time on this issue, discredits the Chinese military and misleads the international community with ulterior motives,” it added.