(Sankei: February 24, 2016 – p. 1)
The Sankei Shimbun learned on Feb. 23 that the number of personnel assigned to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters (Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture) of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) became the largest, exceeding that of the 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters. The 11th regional headquarters is responsible for patrolling areas including the Senkaku Islands (Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture), where Chinese public vessels and fishing boats continually intrude into Japan’s territorial waters. The 3rd regional headquarters is in charge of patrolling areas around the Ogasawara Islands. The large-size patrol boats “Izena” and “Aguni” will enter service on Feb. 24, which will complete “the Senkaku Security Exclusive Unit.” The unit will maintain security in the area with a total of 14 vessels including the large-size patrol boats and Patrol Vessel Large with Helicopter (PLH).
According to the JCG, “Izena” was built at a shipyard in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and “Aguni” at a shipyard in Tamano City, Okayama Prefecture. Both vessels are 96 meters long, have gross tonnage of 1,500 tons, and are equipped with 20 mm cannon and remote-controlled water cannon.
From fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2015, the 11th regional headquarters implemented a project to reinforce “the Senkaku Security Exclusive Unit” through the addition of 10 new vessels and the
retrofitting two others. The commission of “Izena” and “Aguni” will complete the project with 12 large-size vessels and 2 PLHs. The large-size vessels are scheduled for deployment to Ishigaki, where piers and quarters for the JCP personnel are being built.
Previously, the 3rd regional headquarters, with a jurisdiction including Tokyo Bay, Yokohama Port, and the Ogasawara Islands, had the most personnel; however, as the 11th regional headquarters continued augmenting its staff, last year the latter outnumbered the former for the first time. Currently, the 3rd headquarters has 1,514 personnel whereas the 11th headquarters has 1,722, of which 606 will be assigned to the Senkaku Security Exclusive Unit. Furthermore, the 11th headquarters has the most large-size patrol boats, exceeding the number at the 1st regional headquarters in charge of patrolling the Hokkaido region. The number of large-size vessels will be 19 in total as of Feb. 24 [with the commissioning of “Izena” and “Aguni”]. “We will guard waters around the Senkaku Islands through a flawless security posture,” said a JCG official. “With the launch of ‘the Senkaku Security Exclusive Unit,’ JCG members and boats that have been temporarily assigned to the 11th headquarters for security augmentation will be able to return to their home regions, which will enhance maritime safety across the country.”
In the 1970s, after resources were discovered in the seabed near the Senkaku Islands, China pressed its claim to sovereignty over the area. Next Chinese fishing boats began appearing in waters around the islands. After Japan’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in 2012, Chinese public vessels frequently intruded into Japan’s territorial waters and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near the islands. Beginning at the end of last year, China’s public vessels equipped with what appeared to be cannons began intruding into Japan’s territorial waters. Under the circumstances, Japan is required to have in place a security posture that can swiftly respond to changing situations. (Slightly Abridged)