Japan said today it was considering disclosing evidence to bolster its claim that a Chinese frigate locked its weapon-targeting radar on a Japanese ship, after Beijing rejected the charge.

The incident, which Japan said happened last week, marked the first time the two nations’ navies have locked horns in a territorial dispute that has some commentators warning about possible armed conflict.

The neighbours — also the world’s second and third-largest economies — have seen ties sour over uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Tokyo and Diaoyu by Beijing, which claims them.

“The government is considering the extent of what can be disclosed,” Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said on a television programme Saturday.

The comment came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanded that Beijing apologise and admit the incident had happened.

Tokyo also charges that in the middle of last month a Chinese frigate’s radar locked on to a helicopter, in a procedure known as “painting” that is a precursor to firing weaponry.

On both January 19 and January 30, China’s defence ministry said in a statement faxed to AFP, the Chinese ship-board radar maintained normal operations and “fire-control radar was not used“.

Japan hit back, with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida saying he “cannot accept” the explanation and Prime Minister Abe demanding an apology from Beijing.

The hawkish Japanese premier on Thursday called the radar incident “extremely regrettable”, “dangerous” and “provocative” but also said that dialogue must remain an option.

(This article was published on February 9, 2013)
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