China has hit out at Japan for alleging that its ships locked radar on a Japanese vessel — a step before firing — and has accused Tokyo of “deliberately spreading information to smear China’s image”.

Amid tensions over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, the Japanese government said earlier this week that Chinese navy frigates targeted Japanese ships and a helicopter with a radar lock. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the move as provocative and dangerous, suggesting it was a step that could spark conflict.

The Chinese Defence Ministry on Friday denied the allegations, saying its ships had not placed a radar lock. It accused Japan of making “irresponsible remarks” and stirring up tensions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying added that the allegations were “completely making something out of nothing”.

“Japan has deliberately spread information to smear China’s image and play up the China threat,” she said. “This has created tensions and misled international opinion.”