TOKYO — The Japan Coast Guard is planning to deploy patrol ships on a small island about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo, with the aim of strengthening the capability of cracking down on illegal foreign fishing boats, a government official said Wednesday.
Under the plan, an undecided number of patrol boats will be deployed on Chichijima in the Ogasawara Islands within a few years, while a shooting training range for coast guard personnel will be constructed by the fall of next year on Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture.
Given that about 30 percent of Japan’s exclusive economic zones originate from the Ogasawara Islands, a group of around 30 small islands in the Pacific, the government judged it should hurry up in boosting the response capability of the Ogasawara coast guard station, which currently has only one surveillance boat.
Coral fishing boats from China unlawfully operated in the seas around the islands in 2014 and 2015, with the number of boats occasionally reaching more than 200 in a single day, forcing the small-scale coast guard station to call for support from other stations.
Chinese coral poaching boats have become almost nonexistent in the areas over the past few years after Tokyo worked on Beijing diplomatically, but a coast guard official stressed the possibility of their returning and the need to be prepared.
On Miyako Island, which Tokyo views as a key point in guarding waters around the Senkaku Islands along with Ishigaki Island in the same prefecture, nine state-of-the-art patrol ships are being deployed and the construction work for a shooting training range is set to start this fall.
The uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan, which call them Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.