Japan’s government has raised concerns about the installation of radar equipment at a Chinese drilling platform near a disputed section of the East China Sea.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said at the weekend that Tokyo had learned of the installation of ocean-radar facilities and surveillance cameras in late June and had responded by issuing a protest via its embassy in Beijing on August 5. In the complaint, the Japanese government urged the Chinese Foreign Ministry to provide an explanation of the matter, he said.
Japan “cannot accept” China’s decision to install these monitoring systems at the drilling site, the spokesman declared. “We call for the immediate removal of the equipment,” he added.
The discovery has raised hackles in Tokyo because the radar equipment present at the platform is of a type used by patrol boats and not necessary for natural gas exploration. Officials in Tokyo fear that the installation is a sign of Beijing’s intent to use drilling sites as military installations in order to assume control over disputed areas.
The platform in question is near a part of the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China. This section of the sea is home to a group of uninhabited islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. It is also a major shipping lane and may contain sizeable gas reserves.
Beijing did not respond immediately to the Japanese complaint. On August 6, though, Chinese coast guard vessels escorted a group of about 230 fishing boats to the islands. Tokyo reacted by filing another protest, calling the move a violation of its sovereignty.
China’s Foreign Ministry responded to this second complaint by pointing out that the two sides had signed an agreement in 2008 pledging co-operation on natural resource development in the disputed area. “We strongly hope that the Japanese side will honour its principled agreement with us [and] deal with the current situation with a cool head instead of taking actions that may raise tension or make things complicated,” a ministry spokeswoman said.
Japanese officials have accused China of acting unilaterally to explore for oil and gas despite the 2008 accord.