It was learned on Aug. 19 that since the Japanese government nationalized the Senkaku Islands (in Ishigaki City, Okinawa) in 2012, Chinese government ships have sailed alongside fishing boats or their crew members have boarded fishing boats in the contiguous zone outside Japan’s territorial waters on more than 40 occasions, Sankei learned through inquiries with the relevant government officials and the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). It is believed that government ship officials were issuing administrative orders to the fishing boats or engaged in law enforcement.
Although Chinese fishing boats are allowed to operate in waters near the Senkakus under the Japan-China fisheries agreement, issuing orders to fishing boats amounts to the exercise of jurisdiction, so it is possible that violation of Japan’s sovereignty has been taking place on a regular basis. The Japanese government has lodged a protest with the Chinese government whenever Chinese government ship officials were spotted boarding fishing boats.
According to statistics released by the JCG, there were 12 such cases in 2012, 8 in 2013, 4 in 2014, 1 in 2015, and 7 in 2016. It explained that data for 2017 “is not being released based on a decision by the relevant ministries. We are not able to answer questions on specific cases.” However, a government source revealed that nine cases were detected in 2017, so there have been at least 41 such cases since the nationalization of the Senkakus in 2012.
Certain data was not released because in August 2016, some 200-300 Chinese fishing boats flocked to the Senkaku area, with a total of 72 fishing boats and 28 government ships violating Japan’s territorial waters over a period of four days, causing great confusion at the site and resulting in the heightening of tension in Japan-China relations. It is believed that Japan has asked China not to allow fishing boats to go near the Senkaku area and has sought not to provoke China unnecessarily.
The JCG reckons that the actions taken by the China Coast Guard (CCG), “such as issuing orders to the fishing boats, might have amounted to the exercise of jurisdiction.” A Japanese government source noted that there were cases where fishing boats left the Senkaku area after CCG officials boarded them. It is possible that the CCG told the fishing boats not to go near JCG patrol boats in the area.
It is believed that through continuous supervision of Chinese fishing boats by the CCG responsible for maritime security, China wants to emphasize its steady administration of the sea area in its attempt to legitimize its sovereignty over the Senkakus. (Slightly abridged)