Fire-control radar row is Tokyo’s attempt to get more overt outside support and push for constitutional change.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged the European Union to maintain its embargo on arms exports to China because of the heightened tensions in the East China Sea. But it is Japan that is guilty of escalating regional tensions. It is busy playing up a “China threat” to mislead international opinion, so that it can achieve its long-standing military ambitions.
In February, Japan claimed that a Chinese navy ship put a radar lock on a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the East China Sea in January. The Japanese media, dancing to the government’s tune, accused China of other such provocations and said it was pushing the two countries to the brink of war.
China’s Defense Ministry has resolutely rejected the Japanese allegations, and anyone with even a basic military knowledge will realize that they are groundless.
Japan claims that its destroyer and the Chinese frigate were about 3 kilometers apart at the time the Chinese vessel is alleged to have locked its weapon-targeting radar on the Japanese destroyer. This is simply not credible, because at this distance the Chinese vessel would have used its electro-optical target tracker, which would have been more effective at this distance.
What’s more it could not have been a provocation as Japan is suggesting, because the Chinese vessel would never initiate its fire-control radar in such a situation as doing so would tip its hand on the unique characteristics of the radar, including its radio frequency and pulse duration.
Clearly Japan has an ulterior motive for these allegations. By fabricating the incident, Japan is attempting to convince the United States that China is a threat to Japan so that Washington will back Japan in its bitter row with Beijing over the DiaoyuIslands.
Japan is desperate for US backing, but the US has said it will not take sides in the sovereignty dispute and Abe failed to get any explicit words of support when he visited the US in February. By creating this hullabaloo, Tokyo is hoping to finally press Washington to throw its weight fully behind it.
Apart from seeking the US’ sympathy and support in the dispute over the DiaoyuIslands, Japan is also paving the way for a change in its constitutional interpretation of the use of force and trying to get the US to give a nod of approval to the change.
Japan’s pacifist constitution, imposed by the US at the end of World War II, strictly restricts Japan’s military activities abroad. Japan’s right-wing activists seek a constitutional amendment that would transform the country’s Self-Defense Forces into a fully-fledged military and lift the self-imposed ban on the right to excise collective self-defense.
However, getting the green light from Washington is not proving easy. The US has not forgotten Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and Washington is wary about Japan’s attempted constitutional change and the resurgence of militarism in the country. Tokyo has played up the alleged radar lock incident, claiming that “directing such radar is very abnormal”, in a desperate attempt to get the US to back changes to the constitution.
In fact, Japan has played a similar trick before. During the Cold War, Japan hyped up a “threat” from the Soviet Union, so that the US would ease restrictions on Japan’s military activities.
Japan’s latest attempts to convince the US that it faces a China threat is also driven by its ignoble motive to absolve itself of the blame for heightening tension over the Diaoyu Islands issue. The Japanese government’s bid to “nationalize” the DiaoyuIslands broke the consensus it had with China to shelve the territorial dispute.
Japan’s unilateral move has sparked strong protest from the Chinese government and the Chinese people, as well as the peace-loving people in Japan. China has so far firmly responded to Japanese provocation to defend its territorial integrity, and Chinese maritime surveillance ships’ routine patrols and law-enforcement in waters off the DiaoyuIslands have refuted Japan’s self-proclaimed actual control of the islands.
The alleged radar lock-on incident is simply another political farce staged by Japanese right-wing activists to tarnish China’s image and whitewash Japan’s guilt for flaring up regional tension.
Zhang Junshe is a Beijing-based scholar of international relations.
Copyright: China Daily