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Politics Feb. 06, 2013 – 12:45PM JST


The radar-lock that a Chinese frigate put on a Japanese warship was “dangerous” and “provocative,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday, as tensions in a territorial row ratcheted up.

“It was a dangerous act that could have led to an unpredictable situation,” Abe told the Diet. “It is extremely regrettable. We strongly ask for their self-restraint in order to avoid an unnecessary escalation.”

Abe, who took office late December following a landslide win in elections, described the radar-locking as “unilateral provocative action by the Chinese side.”

Abe’s comments come a day after Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera announced weapon-targeting radar had been directed at the Japanese vessel in international waters of the East China Sea last week.

“On Jan 30, something like fire-control radar was directed at a Japan Self-Defense Maritime escort ship in the East China Sea,” Onodera told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday night. “The defense ministry today confirmed radar for targeting was used.”

Onodera said a Japanese military helicopter was also locked with a similar radar on Jan 19. He did not specify whether the helicopter was airborne or on the deck of a ship at the time.

Officials said on both occasions the targeting had lasted “minutes.”

“Directing such radar is very abnormal,” he said. “We recognize it could create a very dangerous situation if a single misstep occurred. We will seek the Chinese side’s self-restraint from taking such dangerous action.”

The move marks the first time the two nations’ navies have locked horns in a dispute that has some commentators warning about a possible armed conflict.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington was “concerned” over the incident.

“With regard to the reports of this particular lock-on incident, actions such as this escalate tensions and increase the risk of an incident or a miscalculation, and they could undermine peace, stability and economic growth in this vital region,” she said. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that Tokyo lodged a protest against Beijing over the radar-locking on Tuesday and asked for an explanation, but was yet to receive any reply.

Radar is used to precisely determine a target’s distance, direction, speed and altitude. Weapon systems linked to the radar can be fired immediately, Japan’s government said.

The move is a ratcheting-up of an already tense situation in the East China Sea, where Asia’s two largest economies are at loggerheads over the sovereignty of an uninhabited island chain.

On Tuesday, Tokyo summoned China’s envoy in protest at the presence a day earlier of Chinese government—but not military—ships in the waters around the Tokyo-controlled Senkakus, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus.

© 2013 AFP

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