Japan protests against China's radar, coast guard ships

This picture taken on August 7 and released by the Japan Coast Guard shows the China coast guard ship 33102 sailing near the waters of disputed East China Sea islands.
This picture taken on August 7 and released by the Japan Coast Guard shows the China coast guard ship 33102 sailing near the waters of disputed East China Sea islands.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO • China has installed a radar with potential military functions in a disputed area of the East China Sea, Japanese media said yesterday, in the latest flare-up of tensions between the two countries.

The Japanese foreign ministry said China had placed a surface search radar and surveillance camera on one of its structures in a gasfield which is claimed by both countries, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The ministry last Friday complained to Beijing through diplomatic channels, the newspaper reported.

The paper said it was the first radar unit known to have been installed on any of the Chinese structures in the area, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

Tokyo is analysing the radar's capability and is concerned that Beijing could be intending to strengthen its military power in the East China Sea.

The foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

Japan and China agreed in 2008 to jointly develop the undersea reserves in the disputed area, with a ban on unilateral drilling.

But negotiations stalled and Tokyo suspects China has some drilling rigs in operation near its de facto maritime border with Japan.

Yesterday, Tokyo separately protested to Beijing after two Chinese ships entered Japanese waters near disputed islands also in the East China Sea.

Japan's government said the two Chinese coast guard ships were sailing some 20km west of one of the Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyu islands in Chinese, yesterday.

"The intrusion violates our country's sovereignty and is completely unacceptable," Japanese vice-foreign minister Shinsuke Sugiyama told Mr Cheng Yonghua, Beijing's ambassador to Tokyo, by phone, according to a government statement.

The two vessels left the waters later in the day, the Japanese coast guard said.

Last Saturday, Japanese maritime officials reported seeing some 230 Chinese fishing vessels and seven coast guard ships, including four apparently carrying weapons, sailing into the same waters.

The latest protests add to bilateral tensions between the two Asian neighbours over territorial claims and come less than a month after an arbitration court in The Hague invalidated China's claims in the South China Sea.

Ties between China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest economies, have been plagued by the row over the islands controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing, a legacy of Japan's wartime aggression and regional rivalry.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'Japan protests against China's radar, coast guard ships'. Print Edition | Subscribe