For the first time since the accusations were made in early February, officials with the Chinese military have admitted that they did direct weapons-targeting radar at Japan’s Self-Defense Force (SDF) ships in waters near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in January. However, the officials say that the act of directing the radar, made by a Chinese frigate, was not planned, and was an “emergency decision” made by the ship’s commander.
The ongoing tensions between the two countries were escalated last month as Japan claimed the radar was used on more than one occasion, and while claiming to have evidence, decided to not to release it out of concern that doing so would reveal their intelligence gathering methods. China, on the other hand, was quick to deny to accusations, adding that the Tokyo government was “hyping” the situation in order to “tarnish” Beijing’s image. Officials with the Japanese Defense Ministry see this admission either as a sign of a softening stance toward Japan, or that China is trying to play “mind games.”
In response to China’s violation of Japanese airspace over the disputed territory in December with government aircraft, the Chinese officials say the action was planned, but it was not the intent to aggravate the situation. They added that they had no intentions to do so in the future as well. These military officials, who it seems are speaking without the official support of the Chinese government, requested that Japan not “fixate” on the radar and airspace violation incidents, and not release their evidence of the radar-lock. Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, of Japan’s Maritime SDF, has said, “If this is true, one has to question a military system that leaves (such) authority in commanders’ hands even when they are not in a dire situation.”
The radar incident is said to have taken place on the morning of January 30th, when the Chinese and Japanese ships were 3 kilometers apart while north of the Senkakus. The Chinese ship’s commander claims he directed the radar based on the rules of engagement, but did not seek permission from navy headquarters. The unnamed Chinese officials explained this by saying that the Chinese navy does not have a communication system as advanced as Japan or the U.S., and that guidance from superiors is not always sought. It remains unknown if the Chinese ship commander was reprimanded for his actions.