Diaoyu Islands

Abe demands apology from Beijing as maritime dispute deepens

Beijing rejects claims that Chinese frigates targeted a Japanese destroyer and helicopter with radar, and accuses Tokyo of 'stirring up crisis'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 February, 2013, 10:31am

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday demanded an apology from China after Beijing accused Tokyo of "hyping up the so-called China threat theory" when it released details of two military incidents that sparked a fresh round of angry exchanges.

Japanese media reported last night that Abe had demanded an apology and said China should prevent similar incidents from happening again, referring to Tokyo's claim that Chinese frigates had targeted a Japanese military helicopter and destroyer with fire-control radar last month. "We want China to acknowledge it, apologise for it and make efforts to prevent it from recurring," Abe told BS Fuji TV station, Jiji Press news agency and Mainichi Daily reported.

Abe made the demand as his deputy foreign minister, Chikao Kawai, summoned China's ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua , to lodge a protest after China's Ministry of National Defence said Tokyo's accusations were "false" and slandered China's military training.

Cheng rejected Tokyo's protest and demanded Japan stop making "irresponsible remarks".

"Tokyo should stop stirring up crisis, creating tensions, fanning confrontation and agitating matters," a statement posted online by the Chinese embassy quoted Cheng as saying.

The Defence Ministry in Beijing remained silent for two days, but said in a statement on Thursday the Chinese vessels had been conducting routine training - without using fire-control radar.

It said the frigate spotted the approaching Japanese military helicopter on January 19 and only used navigation radar. On January 30, the ship-borne radar of the Chinese vessel maintained normal observation because it was closely followed by the Japanese destroyer Yudachi.

Tokyo "recklessly created tension and misled international public opinion", the statement said, adding: "We must be vigilant against and ponder such moves by Japan."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Tokyo had used "petty tricks" and "made things out of nothing".

Ni Lexiong , director of the sea power and defence policy research institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Beijing's reaction would present Tokyo with a dilemma.

"It is difficult for Tokyo to present evidence to reject the Chinese explanation because it may lead to the leaking of advanced technology Tokyo used to detect the kind of radar used by the Chinese frigates," he said.

Jin Canrong , a professor of international relations at Renmin University, believed Tokyo would use the incident to seek support from Washington, especially as Abe would be visiting the US later this month.

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan