Washington has sided with Tokyo in the war of words over allegations that Chinese frigates locked their weapons-guiding radar on Japanese targets near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The U.S. said Monday it has accepted Japan’s explanation and dismissed Beijing’s claim that the government fabricated the story to tarnish China’s image and intentionally raise the tension over the disputed islets.
“We were briefed by our Japanese allies on the incident and we’ve satisfied ourselves that it does appear to have happened,” Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said during her daily briefing Monday in Washington.
“As you know, I said at the time that we have been quite clear about our concern with regard to this with our Chinese interlocutors,” she said.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had said the U.S. would oppose any unilateral action to change Japan’s administration of the Senkaku islets, known as Diaoyu in Chinese. Asked if this warning will carry over now to new Secretary of State John Kerry, Nuland said yes.
“It does indeed, and let me say it again: We urge all parties to avoid actions that could raise tensions or result in miscalculation that would undermine peace, security and economic growth of this vital part of the world,” she said.
According to the Japanese government, a Chinese warship locked its fire-control radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter on Jan. 19 and another warship locked its radar on an MSDF destroyer on Jan. 30.
Such acts are a dangerous provocation that could cause “an unpredictable incident,” officials in Tokyo said.
The Chinese Defense Ministry has claimed Japan made the accusations against Beijing “to mislead international public opinion.”
The state-run Xinhua news agency meanwhile carried a story Saturday that quoted a Chinese scholar as saying Japan has “tarnished China’s image” and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “wants the U.S. to take sides” before he visits Washington later this month.
On Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo and Washington share the understanding that such an act by the Chinese navy “is dangerous and could cause an unpredictable incident.”
“The U.S. is our ally . . . and we have closely consulted each other over this incident,” Suga said.