The minister, Gen Nakatani, told reporters that if Chinese vessels “interfere” Japan would respond with force. He also said he is not aware of any specific incident which could have triggered the warning to Beijing.
“The Chinese military’s actions in the East China Sea have escalated tensions in the area,” Nakatani told reporters on Tuesday. “I want to strongly warn them that if they violate our territory, it will be a recipe for disaster.
Tokyo is also considering stationing officials on the Japanese-administered islands to beef up surveillance, the chief government spokesman said this week.
China’s Foreign Ministry was quick to respond to Tokyo’s latest threat, with a spokesperson urging Japan to “draw lessons from historical lessons” and stop being “provocative.
The disputed islands – called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China – have been a source of increasing tension between the two countries. While Japan is mulling sending officials to the islands, China has increased military activity in the area.
On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said “We are seriously concerned by Chinese naval ships operating near” disputed islands.
Beijing continues to claim sovereignty over the islands and calls frequent patrols by its coastguard a routine “freedom of navigation” mission.
In the latest incident, Tokyo accused a Chinese frigate of locking weapons-controlling radar on a Japanese destroyer in two separate incidents on January 30 and February 3 In December the US said it was planning joint patrols with Japan in the South China Sea as part of freedom of navigation operations in the contested waters.
“We are always conducting reconnaissance, including monitoring by radar, against any foreign ships which approach Japan’s territory,” said Nakatani. “If there is anything like interference or movement to intrude into our territorial waters, it will not be accepted at all.
Nakatani, however, said Japan had not detected any specific instance in which Chinese ships have entered Japanese territory. “It is extremely important that we do not directly or indirectly encourage any slackening of effort on the part of China to improve their relations with Japan,” he added.
Relations between Tokyo and Beijing are at their lowest point in years, largely due to the ongoing territorial dispute. The countries have also clashed diplomatically over China’s claims in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, China is seeking to expand its power with the construction of islands on disputed reefs in the sea, according to Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).
“Beijing’s sovereignty claim rests on the ‘nine-dash line,’ a series of sinuous lines that extend as much as 1,200 nautical miles from China’s southern Hainan and mainland coastlines,” AMTI said in a report.
“Starting in 2014, China began work to transform these isolated and unfinished features into island fortresses, including three airfields at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs.
Another report by the AMTI said China has created more than 3.2 million square meters of new civil-military space on seven features it occupies in the South China Sea. It also noted that Beijing is continuing its land reclamation activities at multiple sites in the Spratly Islands.
“Beijing’s stated plans for its ‘blue economy’ appear to be driving increased militarization of these outposts,” it said. “In particular, China is building large port facilities with dual-use potential at strategic points close to international sea lanes.