- - Thursday, February 14, 2013

After days of silence, the Chinese government went public with a comment on Japan’s protest over a Chinese navy missile frigate that twice beamed its targeting radar on a Japanese helicopter and a Japanese destroyer last month.

Chinese officials just blamed Japan for increasing tension between the two countries over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

“The Japanese are deliberately ratcheting up the crisis, creating tensions and tarnishing China’s image,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Feb. 7. “What the Japanese are doing is on the opposite track of making efforts to improve our bilateral relationship.”

The next day, China’s Defense Ministry issued a statement directly calling Japan a liar.

China hopes that Japan takes effective measures to stop stirring up tension in the East China Sea and making irresponsible remarks,” the statement said.

Ms. Hua added, “Relevant organs of the Chinese side have released to the public the true fact about Japan’s false claim that a Chinese naval ship’s fire-control radar was aimed at a Japanese ship and aircraft. The story from the Japanese side is completely baseless.”

However, Ms. Hua failed to mention where people could find those “facts,” and no public record of those facts could be found.

On Feb. 5, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters that a Chinese naval frigate on Jan. 30 locked its fire-control radar on a patrolling Japanese destroyer near the Senkaku islands, which both nations claim.

He added that another Chinese frigate locked on a Japanese military helicopter Jan. 19. In military terms, such radar lock-ons are considered hostile actions.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a diplomatic protest against China, calling the Chinese military reckless and irresponsible. Mr. Abe further proposed setting up a hotline between the two governments to avoid accidental firings that could escalate into combat.

China’s state media recently stepped up a propaganda war against Japan over the incident, accusing Tokyo of playing “petty tricks.”

The Japanese government flatly rejected China’s accusation and promised to release technical data on the incident, as long as no military secrets would be revealed on the methods used by Japan to detect the Chinese radar beams.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the Chinese explanation “does not conform to the facts and is completely unacceptable, and I have responded to them as such.”

GENERAL TOOK $3 BILLION BRIBES

Last February, Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, deputy chief of the Chinese military’s General Logistics Department, was removed from duty and has since disappeared from the public scene. At the time, no explanation was given for Gen. Gu’s dismissal.

Now new information has emerged, as first reported in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The paper reported that the general committed a phenomenal crime: taking bribes from illicit land sales worth an estimated $3 billion.

As deputy chief for general logistics, Gen. Gu was in charge of military housing, construction and maintenance of barracks and weapons test sites and drill grounds. The post gave him enormous power and access to defense funds.

From his position, Gen. Gu reportedly engaged in massive illicit land sales and personally profited from the deals. Total revenues from the land sales were estimated at $45 billion, from which General Gu siphoned off $3 billion.

Late last year, Gen. Gu was charged with criminal misconduct during a closed military tribunal. It is unlikely that details of the case will be disclosed to the public. The Chinese government in the past never openly reported court-martial cases to the public.

However, more information about Gen. Gu is becoming available, thanks primarily to the new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping’s open call for eradicating widespread corruption within the military.

Upon his ascendency to the supreme leadership position last year, Mr. Xi issued an edict called “Ten New Discipline Regulations” for the military that includes banning alcohol use, ending the practice of holding luxurious banquets, and outlawing bribery and other widespread vices.

Special “informant boxes” were set up online and at various spots in all military barracks to encourage troops to report corruption.

During the investigation into Gen. Gu’s case, officials discovered that he owned more than 300 properties, kept at least five mistresses and built a huge mansion complex for himself in his hometown of Puyang in central Henan Province.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.