KEY POINTS

  • China warned Japan that such tracking could lead to air and sea accidents
  • Chinese minister claimed Liaoning's activities were reasonable and legitimate
  • Tokyo had dispatched helicopter carrier Izumo to track Liaoning during drills

China has lashed out against Japan for its "dangerous close-range tracking" of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) aircraft carrier Liaoning, warning that such actions could be dangerous for both countries. Liaoning is reportedly heading home after wrapping up its three-week drill at Western Pacific.

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson at China's Ministry of National Defense, said Thursday that the Japanese move reflected the country's plan to carry out an offensive military expansion under the guise of a "China threat," reported South China Morning Post.

"Such close tracking and interference activities by the Japanese side are very dangerous and could easily lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations and air and sea accidents," Wu said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

"Not only are they detrimental to mutual trust between the two sides, they also pose a serious threat to the safety of ships, aircraft and personnel of both sides," he said. "China demands that the Japanese side stop all meaningless interference activities," he added.

Wu added that "it is better the aircraft carrier Liaoning  does not have dedicated photographers in the form of Japanese vessels and aircraft."

China's response comes as reports claim Japanese and U.S. forces continuously monitored PLA Navy’s aircraft carrier and accompanying vessels during its high-intensity drills.

Last week, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said Liaoning hosted more than 300 fighter jet and helicopter sorties in waters off Okinawa in the past three weeks. He added that drills were aimed at enhancing the PLA Navy’s combat capabilities on open seas. 

Tokyo had also reportedly dispatched the helicopter carrier Izumo to track and monitor the Chinese vessels. The Japanese air force also scrambled fighter jets in response to the activities of the PLA Navy. Izumo had also tracked Liaoning’s last year just after it transited international waters in the Miyako Strait for a round of drills.

The official also claimed that the aircraft carrier group's activities were reasonable and legitimate. "By hyping Chinese military activities, Japan likely wanted to show off its presence and create excuses for its own pursuit of military expansion," Wu alleged. 

He also took the opportunity to slam a Japanese defense white paper that expressed concern over the security of the Taiwan Strait. He said that Japan had invaded and colonized Taiwan for 50 years and was not trusted by its neighbors. "Taiwan is purely China’s internal affair and we will not allow the Japanese side to intervene," he said. 

EastChinaSea Representation. A file picture of Chinese naval vessels in East China Sea. Photo: China Daily/via REUTERS