Wednesday, February 6, 2013

China gets aggressive

Warships target Japan as standoff intensifies

John Garnaut

The news marks a worrying escalation of a four-month diplomatic and military standoff between Australia's two largest trading partners over disputed islets in the East China Sea.CHINESE warships have aimed missile radars at Japanese military targets in what Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called ''a dangerous action that could lead to unforeseen consequences''.
''At a time when there were signs that there could be talks between China and Japan, it is extremely regrettable that China should carry out such a one-sided provocation,'' Mr Abe told the Japanese parliament.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters on Tuesday night a Chinese frigate pointed a missile control radar at the Japanese destroyer Yuudachi on January 30.
He said a Chinese vessel had similarly targeted a Japanese ship-based helicopter two weeks earlier.
''This is extremely abnormal behaviour,'' Mr Onodera said. ''One step in the wrong direction could have pushed things into a dangerous situation.''
China sidestepped the specific Japanese allegations while urging calm. In a statement issued before Japan's accusation, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman urged Japan ''to stop all provocative actions'' including sending vessels and planes to the Diaoyu Islands, known as Senkaku in Japan.
The US State Department was ''concerned'' about the incident, which might raise risks of an ''incident or miscalculation'', spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington.
Diplomats and military officials in the US, Japan and China had previously warned that the dispute was only one accident away from open military conflict. But the incident suggests the two regional powers have come closer to live fire than many had feared.
Western military officers and diplomats were seeking more information to determine if the Chinese radar targeting amounted to what is known as ''guide mode'', which implies a missile has been locked onto a target.
''If you are the Japanese captain you would have an incredibly uncomfortable choice to make very quickly,'' said a Western diplomat who has been following the dispute closely. ''You're seconds away if that thing decided to fire.''
Mr Onodera's ambiguous language might also cover practices that fall short of a missile being prepared for firing.
Chinese generals have advocated a tough military stance ever since the Japanese government bought the islands from private Japanese owners in September.
Japanese officials said the nationalisation was intended to calm tensions by preventing the islands falling into the hands of a hawkish politician.

No comments: