Japan cuts Chinese navy tour due to US spy concerns
2 days ago
TOKYO (AFP) —
Japan cancelled a tour for visiting Chinese sailors of an advanced Aegis-equipped warship due to US concern that Beijing could gather confidential information, a newspaper said Friday.
Japanese and US officials both denied the report in the Yomiuri Shimbun, which said the Chinese naval crew had been slated to visit Japan's Aegis-equipped Kirishima warship on Friday.
The Shenzhen destroyer with more than 300 sailors is this week paying the first port call by communist China's navy to Japan in the latest effort by the Asian powers to repair relations.
The Aegis system -- seen as Japan's top line of defence against a potential North Korean attack -- has a cutting-edge radar and can launch missiles at more than 10 targets at one time.
The US military, which protects Japan under a security alliance, and the US embassy intervened to cancel the tour of the Kirishima, which is based in Yokosuka south of Tokyo, the Yomiuri said, quoting unnamed sources.
Kyodo News, in a similar report, said that the defence ministry decided to show the Chinese visitors a supply ship instead.
US embassy spokesman David Marks denied the reports, saying it was up to Japan to decide to offer tours of its navy, which the officially pacifist nation calls the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF).
"Neither US forces in Japan nor the US embassy in Tokyo asked the government of Japan to cancel a tour of a JMSDF Aegis ship by PLA (People's Liberation Army) navy officers," Marks said.
Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba also denied the story, telling reporters: "I haven't heard that we were planning to show an Aegis warship."
A defence ministry spokeswoman said the choice of ship was determined based on vessels' training schedules.
"Today the Kirishima is away from Yokosuka port, so physically they can't visit it," she said.
The United States has voiced concern this year after a Japanese petty officer allegedly obtained confidential data of the Aegis system. The officer's wife is Chinese, raising worries about possible espionage.
The United States and China have recently been at loggerheads over naval affairs.
The US Navy chief said Tuesday he was upset that China last week denied entry to Hong Kong to two small US minesweepers that needed fuel and refuge from a storm.
China also hesitated at allowing the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk to make a scheduled port call in Hong Kong.
Japan Cancels Tour of Aegis Ship for China Navy, Official Says
By Sachiko Sakamaki
Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) --
Japan canceled a plan to show an Aegis destroyer to Chinese navy officers, a defense spokeswoman said. She denied a Yomiuri newspaper report the tour was called off because of U.S. objections.
The Chinese destroyer Shenzhen arrived in Tokyo on Nov. 28, the first visit to Japan by China's navy since the end of the World War II. The U.S. was concerned about Chinese officials getting access to confidential data on the Aegis, which is used for destroying enemy missiles, Yomiuri said. The tour was to take place, the paper said.
A tour of the Aegis destroyer Kirishima was considered, the defense spokeswoman, who declined to be identified, said. The plan was canceled due to conflicting schedules and not because the U.S. objected, she said.
The Aegis is a sensitive issue between Japan and its best ally after a Japanese navy officer was found to have information on the U.S.-developed Aegis system on his home computer. U.S. and Chinese defense ties have also became strained after China refused to let a battle group dock in Hong Kong last week.
The Chinese destroyer and its 345 crew are scheduled to stay in Japan until Dec. 1. They will visit Japanese naval ships and bases, as well as play sports with teams from Japan's military.
The Shenzhen is open to the public at Harumi pier near Ginza in central Tokyo.
U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and other ships didn't stop in Hong Kong to spend the American Thanksgiving holiday after China last week initially refused permission to dock.
China reversed its decision after the carrier group had turned around. Earlier, two U.S. minesweepers were denied permission to take refuge in Hong Kong from a storm and refuel.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said yesterday the U.S. was responsible for Kitty Hawk's decision not to dock in Hong Kong because the U.S. President George W. Bush met with Dalai Lama, exiled Tibetan leader.
Liu denied Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had told President Bush the incident was the result of a misunderstanding.
That's awfully convenient.
And the Kitty Hawk fer damn sure ain't available for tours, either!
Sounds like a wise decision.
China snub over US ships deliberate
China has signalled that its recent snubbing of US warships wishing to enter Hong Kong had to do with Washington selling arms to Taiwan and honouring the Dalai Lama.
A foreign ministry spokesman backtracked from a statement originally saying that the denial of permission for the ships to dock and refuel had been a "misunderstanding".
The diplomatic wranglings follow the barring of a Thanksgiving visit last week by the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and several support ships.
Days earlier Chinese authorities had also rejected a request by two US minesweepers seeking shelter in Hong Kong from a storm.
On Thursday, a Pentagon press secretary said the US had sent a formal protest to Beijing over China's actions.
Geoff Morrell said that the Chinese decisions had been "baffling" and that "we are expressing officially our displeasure".
The issue of the port visits was also brought up at the White House on Wednesday during talks between George Bush, the US president, and Yang Jiechi, the visiting Chinese foreign minister.
Yang reportedly told Bush the case of the Kitty Hawk was based on a "misunderstanding", a White House spokeswoman said, although no mention was made of the barred minesweepers.
'Disturbed and harmed'
However, on Friday, Liu Jianchao, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said the report from Washington that quoted Yang as calling the incident a "misunderstanding" was incorrect.
Liu said ties had been "disturbed and harmed" by "erroneous" US actions and that "the report is not in line with the facts".
On Thursday a Chinese communist party-owned newspaper had hinted at the possible cause of the row, blaming a US decision to sell anti-missile defence system to Taiwan.
Citing an unnamed colonel in the Chinese military, it said the decision "obviously sent the wrong signals" to Taiwan's leaders, who Beijing accuses of seeking to declare formal independence.
"At a time when the US side is seriously harming China's interests, there is no logic under heaven by which China should then be expected to open its heart and embrace him," the paper said.
Meanwhile, Japan has scrapped a plan to allow Chinese navy officers to tour a destroyer equipped with US high-tech Aegis radar equipment.
Japan's Yomiuri newspaper said the captain and senior crew members of the Chinese warship Shenzhen, which docked in Tokyo this week on a landmark visit symbolising warmer Sino-Japanese ties, were to visit the ship, but the plan was scrapped at the request of US officials.
However, a US embassy spokesman denied any US role in the decision.
David Marks said: "Neither the US Forces in Japan nor the US embassy in Tokyo asked the Government of Japan to cancel a tour of a Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force Aegis ship by PLA (People's Liberation Army) Navy officers."
Shigeru Ishiba, Japan's defence minister, said he had not heard that a tour of the destroyer had been scrapped at the request of the US, but added that the need to protect classified data was a factor in deciding what to open up.
He said: "Various options were considered by those in charge. There is the situation of trust, but at the same time there is the matter of protecting confidential information, and the question is how to balance those."