The government could disclose evidence related to two alleged incidents when Chinese frigates locked their weapons-guiding radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer and helicopter last month, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Saturday.
“The government is considering the extent of what can be revealed” publicly, Onodera said on a Yomiuri Telecasting Corp. program, noting the government has “hard” evidence of China’s provocative acts in the form of footage, photographs and radio wave data.
But Onodera indicated that whatever evidence is disclosed about the alleged fire-control radar lock-ons would be limited so as not to completely reveal Japan’s ability to gather and analyze sensitive intelligence related to national security.
His remarks came a day after Beijing denied Tokyo’s accusations that Chinese warships had locked their fire-control radar on an MSDF destroyer and chopper in two separate incidents on the high seas near the Senkaku Islands. The Japan-controlled and China-claimed islet chain in the East China Sea is the subject of an increasingly acrimonious dispute between Asia’s two biggest economies.
“Japan has repeatedly spread false accusations that distorted facts and defamed the Chinese military’s normal combat readiness training,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said last week. “This time, without verifying related facts with the Chinese side, Japan unilaterally released untrue information to the media and senior Japanese government officials made irresponsible remarks.”
On Tuesday, Onodera told a hastily convened news conference that a Chinese frigate had directed its fire-control radar at an MSDF destroyer in the East China Sea at around 10 a.m. Jan. 30 — when the two vessels were around 3 km apart — and that another Chinese frigate had locked its target radar onto an MSDF helicopter Jan. 19.
Beijing claims the two frigates only used general monitoring radar, but Onodera pointed out Saturday that these kinds of surveillance systems normally rotate while in operation — unlike fire-control radar. The frequency of fire-control radar is “special” and Japan “recorded it,” he said.
Onodera stated the government has evidence that fire-control radar “tracked our ship for a certain period (of time).”
He also said on the TV program that moves by Chinese surveillance ships around the Senkakus — known as Diaoyu in China — have “calmed” since Tuesday’s announcement of the lock-on incidents. He said China will probably deny everything even if the government releases data to back up its allegations, but Tokyo will nonetheless “inform the international community that these incidents occurred.”
“We will explain in a manner that ordinary people can visually understand that what (the government) said was right,” Onodera said, suggesting the evidence released may be limited to photos and footage.
He said Tokyo asked Beijing on Thursday to resume talks on establishing a bilateral maritime safety mechanism to avoid confrontations in the East China Sea.