June 2 (UPI) — Chinese state media warned tensions could escalate with Japan if Tokyo deployed more ground-based radar in areas near the disputed Senkaku Islands.
Cao Weidong of the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute told People’s Daily on Friday if Japan continues to strengthen radar defense in the Nansei or Ryukyu Islands, the move would harm China’s strategic interests.
Cao’s comments come at a time of strained relations between Beijing and Tokyo.
The two countries are locked in a territorial dispute over the Senkakus. China’s deployment of coast guard ships in Japan-claimed waters has irritated Tokyo.
The United States is committed to the defense of the disputed islands.
In mid-May, U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris visited a Japanese ground self-defense force radar station in Yonaguni Island, the southernmost of the Ryukyu Islands, according to the Japan Times.
China condemned the radar station when it began operations in 2016.
The Chinese military expert also warned Japan against deploying the powerful X-Band radar that accompanies a THAAD battery, the U.S. missile defense system that is currently in operation in central South Korea.
Such a move would threaten China’s “strategic balance,” Cao said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s Cabinet approved the highest defense budget on record for fiscal year 2017, which includes more defenses for Japan’s military in offshore Okinawa Islands, including Miyakojima, Yonaguni and Anami Oshima, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Parts of the $43 billion budget will be allocated to the acquisition of the SM-3 Block 2A interceptor missile co-developed with the United States, and for the deployment of ground self-defense force units to islands south of Okinawa, according to the U.S. think tank.