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The Kyodo report, however, said Chinese military sources confirmed the Japanese account but blamed the commander of the Chinese navy for acting without the permission of naval headquarters.

The Chinese sources said the Chinese frigate and the Japanese destroyer were about 2 miles apart and about 80 miles north of the Senakaku islands.

“The commander of the frigate directed the fire-control radar at the destroyer, based on its rules of engagement and without seeking directions from fleet command or navy headquarters,” they told Kyodo.

The Chinese government immediately called the report another “groundless fabrication” — a standard tool used by the communist government as a way to avoid comment on controversial subjects.

China has repeatedly stated its stand on this issue. The truth of the matter is extremely apparent. Japan’s so-called narrative that a Chinese naval frigate locked its fire-control radar on a Japanese destroyer and a Japanese military helicopter is fabricated,” said an official statement issued by the Chinese National Defense Ministry’s spokesman Monday.

“The Japanese side from time to time hypes the [story] with aims to mislead the international community, and such action is directed by ulterior motives,” the statement said.

On the same day, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency published a report headlined the “resolute denial of Japan’s lie” by the “relevant departments” of the Chinese Navy.

“Our navy’s chain of command is highly unified and centralized, strictly following the rules and regulations,” said Xinhua.

“The Kyodo report on this affair is pure fabrication and deliberately mendacious. Its main objective is to create stains on the Chinese military, mislead international opinion and seek sympathy.”

“The Japanese side must deeply self-reflect [on its own errors],” a Chinese defense ministry spokesman demanded. “Japan must stop making irresponsible statements such as this.”

The harsh tone of the report reflects Chinese Communist Party worries over growing signs in recent years that its military is not fully under civilian control.

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