JAPAN - Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration had instructed the Maritime Self-Defence Force to observe Chinese Navy ships in the East China Sea from afar to avoid provoking Beijing, sources close to the government have said.
After the Noda administration nationalised the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, in September, it told the MSDF to monitor the Chinese vessels from a distance at which the Japanese destroyers could not be seen by the Chinese, the sources said.
Liberal Democratic Party member Koichi Hagiuda asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during Thursday's House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting whether he thought the Noda administration had given too much consideration to China with this decision.
Abe replied that he had been told the former government ordered the MSDF to impose restrictions on monitoring of Chinese ships.
"For fear of additional friction, [the Noda administration] excessively restricted the MSDF's activities when patrolling the sea. Right after the inauguration of the current administration, we fundamentally reviewed the policy of the former government," Abe said.
According to the government sources, in the early days of the DPJ's administrations, MSDF ships carried out their duty of patrolling the sea in a conventional way by coming as close as three kilometers to Chinese ships in the East China Sea when necessary.
However, after the escalation of confrontations between Japan and China following the nationalisation of the Senkaku Islands, the Noda administration changed the policy over MSDF patrols, according to the sources.
Some observers said the leaders of the previous government paid special consideration to China, for fear that military tensions could heighten if the MSDF approached the Chinese Navy ships.
It is generally said the distance at which people on a ship can see other vessels is 28 kilometers or less.
The MSDF is believed to have tracked the Chinese ships by radar while positioned more than 28 kilometers away.
The MSDF destroyers backed away when Chinese ships came close to them, the sources said.
After the Abe administration came into power in December, the new government restored the monitoring activities to their previous level.
Some government officials said when Chinese Navy vessels locked fire-control radar onto an MSDF destroyer north of the Senkaku Islands on Jan. 30, they might have done so because China interpreted Japan's sudden visible presence in the waters as a provocation.
"When Japan restored its monitoring system to the conventional level, China reacted in a menacing way, as it thought Japan took a provocative action," a senior official of the Defence Ministry said.
*Noticia publicada a Asia One. Evitar caure en provocacions és quelcom assenyat, ara bé, les polítiques d'apaivagament acostumen a produïr l'efecte contrari quan es tracta amb dictadures.