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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Editorial: China must halt hostile actions immediately

The Japanese people are appalled and angry. If China wants to be a good member of the international community, the PRC should never repeat such an act that is tantamount to barging into a neighbor’s house with one’s shoes on.


A PLA Navy intelligence collection ship intruded into Japan’s territorial waters near Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture. A patrol airplane of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) kept warning the ship not to enter the area, but the vessel did not change course.


It was only natural that the government denounced the act through diplomatic channels. This type of operation must not be allowed to become a common occurrence. If a similar incident occurs, Japan must not hesitate to defend its territorial waters by allowing the SDF to launch maritime policing actions.


In November 2004, a nuclear submarine of the PRC, which claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, intruded underwater into Japan’s territorial waters around Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture. That was the first time for a Chinese military vessel to enter Japan’s territorial waters and the latest intrusion was the second time.


Only six days ago the Japanese government lodged a protest with China after a Chinese frigate entered the contiguous zone off the Senkaku Islands. China’s act was malicious in terms of “escalating tensions,” said Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that “the passage was in accord with the principle of freedom of navigation,” but this assertion is far from convincing.


The intelligence collection ship is no doubt an armed warship. The vessel was tracking Indian Navy vessels going to join the trilateral Malabar naval exercise currently being conducted by Japan, U.S., and India in waters east of Okinawa. The ship apparently intended to monitor and obstruct the exercise.


The intrusion could have been China’s way of retaliating against Japan for cooperating with U.S. for in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Or it is possible that the ship was taking measurements of Japan’s territorial waters in order to draw up an underwater topographic chart essential for Chinese submarines to advance into the Pacific.


The Chinese operation cannot be viewed as innocent passage as permitted under international law. It is unacceptable from the standpoint of national defense. An intrusion into territorial waters by a Chinese warship could trigger an unforeseen situation. Japan must strengthen its defense in coordination with the U.S., but what is even more important is for Japan to make its own efforts. Japanese people have high expectations for the warning and surveillance conducted by the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).


The central government also needs to take crisis management very seriously. On June 15, both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga went out of town to campaign for the election, but since the intrusion took place before dawn, they were still in Tokyo at the time.


A crisis could happen at any time. In order to take emergency measures such as ordering the SDF to launch maritime policing acts and calling the National Security Council, the government must review its response measures.


When the prime minister is out visiting other areas of the country, it makes sense for the deputy prime minister and key cabinet ministers to remain in Tokyo.

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