Japan protests over radar on Chinese exploration rig in East China Sea

Tokyo urges explanation for ‘unnecessary’ equipment in resource-rich disputed waters, report says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 1:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 1:48am

Japan has protested to Beijing after the discovery that China installed radar equipment in a gas exploration platform close to disputed waters in the East China Sea, a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Japan fears that the radar, a type commonly found on patrol ships and is not necessary for gas field development, could be a sign that China intends to use gas exploration platforms in the disputed waters as military installations, Japanese media said.

According to the spokesman, Japan discovered the radar in late June and issued a protest on Friday through its embassy in China, urging Beijing to explain the radar’s purpose.

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Japan has been calling on China to halt construction of oil-and-gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea, accusing it of unilateral development despite a 2008 agreement to maintain cooperation on developing resources in the area, where no official border between them has been drawn.

On Saturday, Japan issued another protest to Beijing after Chinese coastguard ships and about 230 fishing vessels sailed close to what Tokyo considers its territorial waters around disputed islets in the East China Sea.

The Nikkei business daily reported 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 presence in the East China Sea, Nikkei said.

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.

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

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Japan’s government said the two Chinese coastguard ships were sailing 20km west of one of the Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyus in China, on Sunday morning.

“The intrusion violates our country’s sovereignty and is completely unacceptable,” Japanese vice foreign minister Shinsuke Sugiyama told 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 coastguard said.