Japan gov't suggests hotline with China may cool island spat
By Kyoko Hasegawa, AFPTOKYO--Japan has suggested setting up a military hotline with China to avoid clashes between the two countries, which are at loggerheads over a group of disputed islands, Tokyo's defense minister said Saturday.
February 10, 2013, 12:32 am TWN
The proposal came after Tokyo accused a Chinese frigate of locking its weapons-tracking radar on a Japanese destroyer — a claim Beijing has denied.
The incident, which Japan said happened last week, marked the first time the two nations' navies have locked horns in a territorial dispute that provoked fears of armed conflict breaking out between the two.
The neighbors — also the world's second and third-largest economies — have seen ties sour over the uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Tokyo and Diaoyu by Beijing, which also claims them.
“What's important is to create a hotline, so that we would be able to communicate swiftly when this kind of incident happens,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters.
He said Tokyo told Beijing on Thursday through its embassy in China that it wants to resume talks on creating a “seaborne communication mechanism” between military officials of both countries.
In 2010 China and Japan agreed to establish a hotline between political leaders following a series of naval incidents, but the plan has yet to materialize.
Defense officials of the two countries also agreed in 2011 to set up a military-to-military hotline by the end of last year, but the talks stalled due to heightened tensions over the territorial row.
Considering Evidence Disclosure
Onodera also said Japan was considering disclosing evidence to bolster its accusation of the lock-on incident, after Beijing rejected the charge.
“We have evidence. The government is considering the extent of what can be disclosed,” because it includes confidential information on Japan's defense capability, Onodera said.
The comments came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanded Beijing apologize and admit the incident took place.
Tokyo has also charged that last month a Chinese frigate's radar locked on to a Japanese helicopter, in a procedure known as “painting” that is a precursor to firing weaponry.
For both alleged incidents, on Jan. 19 and Jan. 30, China's defense ministry said in a statement to AFP that the Chinese ship-board radar maintained normal operations and “fire-control radar was not used.”
Onodera said on Saturday that Japan could prove the frigate used a fire-control radar, instead of an early-warning radar that China insists was used as part of normal operations.
“An early-warning radar turns around repeatedly, while a fire-control radar keeps pointing to a moving ship that it targets at,” Onodera said.
“We have evidences that the radar followed after our ship for a certain period of time,” he said, adding that Japan recorded a radio frequency that is peculiar to a fire-control radar.