SEOUL — A Chinese military vessel last week locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese warship, Japan’s Ministry of Defense said Tuesday, marking a brief but dangerous escalation in the showdown over maritime territory between Asia’s two largest economies.
The Chinese ship eventually unlocked its radar without firing a shot, the ministry said, but the alleged incident underscores how the neighbors — wrangling over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea — are just one mistake away from potential armed conflict.
On Tuesday, Japan lodged a protest with the Chinese government over the incident, which it said took place near the contested islands that Japan calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu.
“Beaming of radar for firing is very abnormal, and it could have put us in a very grave situation if things went wrong,” Japan’s defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, told reporters, according to the Kyodo news agency. He added that in January, a Chinese ship targeted a Japanese helicopter in the same manner.