It turned out to be a half-denial. What the Chinese defense ministry spokesperson told the TV News Ifeng on February 7 was that it had used a “warning and control radar,” not a fire-control radar, on the Japanese destroyer. So did the Japanese authorities jump the gun?
There is such a thing as an “Airborne Surveillance, Warning and Control Radar (ASWAC)” so it would not surprise me if the PLA Navy had a surface (surveillance,) warning and control radar mounted on its frigate. Thus, it’s plausible that the captain of the frigate decided to do the PLA Navy’s version of giving the evil eye by locking that radar, and not the fire-targeting radar, on the Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer. So two questions: a) are surveillance, warning and control radars ever used in that manner, and b) are signals emanating from the two types of radars when they are used in that manner distinguishable from each other? Even if it turns out that the Japanese authorities aren’t being lied to, they could have been punk’d—punk’d with the potential outcome just as deadly as if the radar had been a fire-targeting radar. The matter turns on the answers to the two questions. The story is far from over.