WASHINGTON – A senior U.S. diplomat handling Asia and Pacific affairs expressed hope Thursday that Japan and China will set up a bilateral mechanism aimed at avoiding clashes in the East China Sea.
Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, voiced the hope in connection with an agreement reached last month by navy chiefs from 21 countries to ban their warships from locking weapons-targeting radar on other warships during peacetime.
Speaking at a think tank event in Washington, Russel said the so-called code of behavior adopted at the Western Pacific Naval Forum in Qingdao hosted by China is a “very positive development in helping reduce the risk of misunderstanding dangers, interactions” between naval ships and aircraft.
Russel said he hopes that the code of behavior will “spur progress in developing agreements and mechanisms to avoid and prevent incidents between Japan and China in the East China Sea,” where China claims the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands.
China has repeatedly sent its ships into Japanese territorial waters near the uninhabited Senkakus since the Japanese government bought a few of them from their private Japanese owner in 2012, effectively nationalizing the chain and aggravating China and Taiwan, which also claim them.
Last year, the Japanese government said a Chinese frigate locked fire-control radar on a Japanese destroyer near the disputed area, an act that could have been taken as preparations for a real attack.