• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 8:29am

Beijing backs code to prevent conflict at sea along with US and Japan

Ban on radar-locking of weaponry and a clearer system of communication agreed by 21 nations, including Japan and the US, at Qingdao forum

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 11:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 9:09am

China is among 21 countries to have approved a charter aimed at preventing unintended military conflict at sea.

Japan, the United States and the Philippines also adopted the agreement, which sets out a communications mechanism for when naval vessels meet unexpectedly in busy sea lanes in the Asia Pacific region.

The agreement reportedly includes a ban on the radar locking of weaponry on vessels of other nations in peacetime.

The move comes amid rising territorial friction between China and its neighbours.

We have to learn from history and resolve maritime disputes through peaceful means
PLA Navy chief Wu Shengli

The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea was approved unanimously at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in the port city of Qingdao . It comes after more than 10 years of discussion since such a charter was first proposed by Australia.

PLA Navy chief Admiral Wu Shengli said the code was important to avoid misjudgment and called for candid communications among the militaries to manage their differences.

"We have to respect and learn from history and should resolve maritime disputes through peaceful means, refraining from taking radical action that will seriously affect regional stability," he said.

With sea lanes increasingly militarised as major Asia-Pacific powers flex their muscles in a series of disputes, navies will now fire off green, yellow or red flares according to the situation.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said the code included the ban on radar locking - a move usually carried out before an attack.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said in Tokyo yesterday the code - which is not legally binding - included specifications urging "restraint on the use of weapons and using various means to make contact".

The risks of an unintended conflict were highlighted in January when Tokyo alleged that a Chinese frigate locked its radar on a Japanese destroyer in the East China Sea. In December, the US military cruiser Cowpens had to take evasive action in the South China Sea to avoid hitting a warship supporting China's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning.

Defence analysts said Beijing opposed the code when it was first proposed because it would have been legally binding. But it had been encouraged to adopt the protocol to reduce fears over its territorial ambitions.

Masafumi Iida, an analyst at the National Institute of Defence Studies in Japan, said: "This may be the first positive step by the Chinese navy in accepting the rules of navigation and the laws of developed nations."

Yue Gang , a retired colonel, said the risk of "miscalculations" at sea was rising because of mutual suspicion between China and its neighbours. "The root of it is the lack of political trust among the nations," he said.

Gary Li, an analyst at IHS Maritime, said the code would help reduce tensions in incidents similar to the one involving USS Cowpens. But he said: "I'd expect a certain amount of flexibility in exercising the agreement.

"I would not expect any one side to adhere completely to it during any territorial dispute, although these confrontations would now be within a framework of measures."


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

I have to agree that this is indeed a step in the right direction. What we need to avoid is for China/US/Japan relations to devolve into a situation like the cold war in which careful implication of such codes were the only thing standing between the U.S. and Communist block countries. It is gradually coming into the public domain that there were several 'near misses' in which major conflicts were only avoided by calm, cool, and careful assessment of the situations at hand at the time.
How About
But there are some dos and cocktails you have to appear just so the next one you want to host, those guests you don't want to meet this time are obliged to turn up! This is very likely the consolation plan-B that Chuck Hagel's team stitched up when they got the boot at the Liaoning 3 weeks ago! Face saving to all when Hussein-O touches down later today!
Totally useless! First, one could continuously download the location of any warship and vessel with GPS to an accuracy of 2 meters. Second, with the downloaded image of the target and its environment, pattern recognition software in the weapon can fine tune down to inches at the moment of impact and nail the dead center.
The agreement on a Code to prevent conflicts at sea is a step in the right direction especially in the context of mounting tension over unresolved maritime territorial claims in the region! It should in fact be extended to the entire world as constantly improving modern war ships can cruise around the world at rapid speed! Also, it is hoped that the code will be strictly followed by one and all especially when such ships sail into disputed areas and there ought to be added communication and understanding between different countries involved so that there will be no room for any miscalculated clashes in the sea!


SCMP.com Account