Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has condemned as unacceptable China's recent moves in the East China Sea and said the world needs to know what Beijing is up to.
"We have no hesitation in declaring China's behavior to be deviant," Abe told a Lower House Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 7, using relatively formal words to express what is believed to be a strong sense of indignation.
Two days earlier, Japan disclosed that on Jan. 30 a Chinese naval frigate directed weapons-targeting radar at the Japanese destroyer Yudachi in waters off the disputed Senkaku Islands, an action which in ordinary circumstances is one step short of opening fire.
This was, Abe continued, "a violation of rules of the international community." He indicated Japan would step up efforts to enlist the help of other countries to put pressure on China.
Abe admitted there had been one failing on the Japanese side: a delay in communications, which led to him not being informed of the incident until Feb. 5.
"Administrative officials became excessively cautious" after an earlier, but unconfirmed case of weapons targeting, Abe said.
He was referring to a suspected incident on Jan. 19, when another Chinese frigate apparently directed fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter in the East China Sea. But the crew recorded insufficient data to conclude definitively that the helicopter was the target.
A senior Defense Ministry official reported the case to Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Jan. 21. Onodera responded by saying only when the incident was fully confirmed should a response be made.
Abe said in the future he will require officials to hold nothing back.
"We will have them submit preliminary reports even before they are confirmed," he said.
In the case of the Yudachi incident, Defense Ministry officials gathered data and spent time analyzing it before reporting its existence to Onodera on Feb. 5.
Onodera immediately went to the prime minister's office, and Abe ordered him to lodge a protest with China—and make it public.
At the Lower House Budget Committee meeting, Abe emphasized that Japan would explore possibilities for talks with China on a political level.
"The incident was extremely regrettable, but we will not shut the door for dialogue," he said. "We call on China to return to the starting point of a 'mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.'"
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