Tokyo summoned China’s envoy yesterday in protest at what it says was another incursion into its territorial waters, after Beijing’s ships sailed near islands at the center of a bitter dispute.
“The foreign ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador over ships entering the waters near Senkaku Islands,” said an official, referring to a chain claimed as the Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島) by Beijing and the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) by Taiwan.
The move comes after Chinese state vessels spent much of Monday in waters around the islands and as the two sides show no sign of backing down in their dispute.
Two maritime surveillance boats arrived in the area shortly before 9:30am, the Japanese coastguard said, adding that they had remained there for around 14 hours.
Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference the actions were “absolutely unacceptable,” adding that Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua (程永華) had been called to the foreign ministry to hear Japan’s “strong protest.”
Chinese ships have repeatedly ventured into the waters, in what observers say is Beijing’s bid to create a “new normal” in which Tokyo does not have effective control over the archipelago.
A Chinese government plane entered the chain’s airspace in December last year, setting off sorties by Japanese fighter jets.
Analysts say the ramping up of rhetoric and the more frequent confrontations raise the risk of an accidental armed conflict.
Meanwhile, a Chinese military frigate locked its weapon-targeting radar on a Japanese navy vessel on at least one occasion, Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera said yesterday.
“On January 30, something like fire-control radar was directed at a Japan Self-Defense Maritime escort ship in the East China Sea. The defense ministry today confirmed radar for targeting was used,” Onodera told reporters in Tokyo.
Onodera said a Japanese military helicopter was also locked with a similar radar a few days earlier.
“Directing such radar is very abnormal,” he said. “We recognize it would create a very dangerous situation if a single misstep occurred.”
“We will seek the Chinese side’s self-restraint from taking such dangerous action,” he said.
On a Saturday visit to Okinawa, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to defend Japan against “provocations,” just days after his government approved a rise in defense spending for the first time in over a decade.
“Provocations are continuing against our country’s inherent territorial land, air and sea as well as its sovereignty,” Abe said in Naha, in an apparent reference to China.