China, Japan engage in new invective over disputed isles

Fri Feb 8, 2013 5:44pm EST
 

By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Japan engaged on Friday in a fresh round of invective over military movements near a disputed group of uninhabited islands, fuelling tension that for months has bedeviled relations between the Asian powers.

An increasingly muscular China has been repeatedly at odds with others in the region over rival claims to small clusters of islands, most recently with fellow economic giant Japan which accused a Chinese navy vessel of locking radar normally used to aim weapons on a Japanese naval ship in the East China Sea.

China's Defence Ministry rejected Japan's complaint about the radar, its first comment on the January 30 incident. It said Japan's intrusive tracking of Chinese vessels was the "root cause" of the renewed tension.

A Japanese official dismissed the Chinese explanation for incident saying China's actions could be dangerous in the waters around the islets, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, believed to be rich in oil and gas.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led his conservative party to a landslide election victory in December, promising to beef up the military and stand tough in territorial disputes.

On Thursday, another border problem was brought into focus when Japan said two Russian fighter jets briefly entered its air space near long-disputed northern islands, prompting Japan to scramble combat fighters. Russia denied the accusation.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific said the squabble between Japan and China underlined the pressing need for rules to prevent such incidents turning into serious conflict.

"What we need in the South China Sea is a mechanism that prevents us turning our diplomacy over to young majors and young (naval) commanders ... to make decisions at sea that cause a problem (that escalates) into a military conflict that we might not be able to control," Admiral Samuel Locklear told a conference in the Indonesian capital.   Continued...

 
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Yuudachi is seen in this undated handout photo released by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and obtained by Reuters on February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force/Handout