Japan says Chinese warships locked weapons radar on MSDF
by Reiji Yoshida and Mizuho Aoki Staff Writers
Feb 6, 2013 PRINT SHARE Chinese warships directed their fire-control radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer and a helicopter on two separate occasions last month in the East China Sea, prompting the government Tuesday to denounce the “very dangerous act” and lodge a formal protest with Beijing.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera held a hastily arranged news conference to reveal the incidents that took place on Jan. 19 and 30, saying the ministry had just finished analyzing the radar emitted by the Chinese frigates Jiangkai I and the Jiangwei II.
After what it described as a careful study of the radar data, the ministry concluded the signals came from the Chinese ships’ fire-control systems and were aimed at the MSDF ship and helicopter.
Onodera denounced the acts as “very abnormal” and said they “could develop into a very dangerous situation.”
“Usually any country that owns ships like these won’t (direct the radar) of their fire-control system (on ships of another country) unless in extreme circumstances,” Onodera said.
The fire-control system is used to aim a warship’s weapons, including missiles.
The fire-control system “radar of a ship is activated before the use of weapons. Directing such radar signals at another party is a dangerous act that could develop into unpredictable situations,” a senior Defense Ministry official said.
“We will severely demand China refrain from taking such dangerous acts,” Onodera said.
He did not reveal where the two incidents took place, saying it would provide classified information about MSDF operations.
But Kyodo News quoted a source in the ruling coalition as saying both incidents took place near the Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in China, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.
According to Defense Ministry officials, the 3,953-ton Jiangkai I emitted radar signals at around 5 p.m. Jan. 19 that set off the threat-alarm system onboard a SH-60K helicopter from the MSDF destroyer Onami.
The helicopter was flying several kilometers from the ship over the high seas, the ministry said.
At around 10 a.m. Jan. 30, the MSDF destroyer Yudachi detected the fire-control system radar from the Jiangwei II, which was about 3 km away, over the course of several minutes, the ministry said.
Both incidents immediately “raised the sense of tension” among the MSDF crews, Onodera said.
Neither of the Chinese ships tried to communicate with the MSDF by VHF, as is customary among navies around the world, according to the Defense Ministry.
Prior to his news conference, Onodera briefed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the two incidents.
According to Onodera, Abe instructed him to “react firmly” to the incidents by filing a formal protest with Beijing through diplomatic channels.
Relations with China have been severely strained since the central government effectively nationalized the Senkaku Islands in September, and Beijing has continuously been sending government ships to the area. On numerous occasions they have intruded into the territorial waters claimed by Japan.
International concern has grown recently over the possibility of an accidental clash between Chinese and Japanese ships in the area.