China Accuses Japan of Escalating Tensions Over Disputed Islands
By CHRIS BUCKLEY, HONG KONG (NY Times): China accused Japan on Thursday of escalating maritime tensions that have dogged their relationship by harassing Chinese ships, continuing a succession of tit-for-tat accusations that reflect increasing distrust between the two countries.
A spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, Geng Yansheng, made the accusations on the same day that the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, likened recent intrusions by Chinese ships into Japanese-controlled waters near contested islands to Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands, which set off a brief war with Britain.
Tensions over the East China Sea islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, deepened earlier this month when Japan said that a Chinese Navy frigate had briefly used a missile-directing radar to lock onto a Japanese military ship. China vehemently denied doing that.
At a briefing for Chinese journalists in Beijing, Mr. Geng, repeated that denial and said he had proof that Japan would be to blame for any mishaps.
“For a long time, Japan has closely tracked Chinese vessels and craft to monitor and interfere with them,” said Mr. Geng, according to a transcript on the Chinese Ministry of National Defense Web site.
“This is the source of the maritime security problems between China and Japan,” he said. “The Chinese side has ample evidence of this, and reserves the right to take corresponding measures.”
Mr. Geng suggested that Mr. Abe was seeking to raise tensions.
“China has always taken maritime safety very seriously, and does not want to see accidents at sea,” Mr. Geng said. “But the Japanese leader has repeatedly made provocative statements, exaggerated the China threat, and made much of military issues, intentionally provoking military confrontation.”
In a speech to Japan’s Parliament, however, Mr. Abe used a comparison to the 1982 Falkland Islands war to cast China as the provocateur. He cited the memoir of the British prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, who said her decision to go to war was an effort to defend the principle that rule of law should prevail over the use of force.
“I want to appeal to international society that in modern times, efforts to change the status quo by the use of force will justify nothing,” said Mr. Abe, referring to the current standoff with China.
The festering dispute over the islands erupted in September, when Japan bought three of the five islands from a private owner in what it said was as an effort to stop them from falling into the hands of an ardent Japanese nationalist. China, however, called the purchase a provocative act that effectively denied its territorial claims, and violent protests broke out in dozens of Chinese cities.
In the months since, China has sought to demonstrate its claim to the islands by sending government vessels and military ships and aircraft near them, where Japanese Coast Guard ships conduct patrols.
On Friday, Japan said it had asked the Chinese government to explain why it had placed several buoys in waters near the disputed islands. A Chinese official said on Tuesday that the buoys were meant to monitor the weather, despite Japanese media reports that they could be used for tracking Japanese submarines.
At the news briefing, Mr. Geng repeated China’s denials that it was behind Internet hacking attacks aimed at United States government, corporate and media Web sites. He said the Ministry of National Defense Web site and another Chinese Web site devoted to military news were targeted by an average of 144,000 hacking attacks a month from abroad last year, almost two-thirds of which came from the United States.
He did not explain how he defined such hacking attacks, nor say if any were successful.
Martin Fackler contributed reporting from Tokyo.