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China’s relentless provocations over Senkakus concern Japan

  • May 21, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 6:15 p.m.
  • English Press
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Tokyo, May 21 (Jiji Press)–China’s relentless provocative acts in waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, southernmost Japan, concern the Japanese government, which is struggling to combat the novel coronavirus.

 

Beijing’s hard-line stance became even clearer May 8, when two Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese waters around the East China Sea islands and chased a Japanese fishing boat. The islands are claimed by China, where they are called Diaoyu.

 

Tokyo protested the move, but the Chinese side claimed that the Japanese ship was illegally fishing in Chinese waters, insisting on the country’s sovereignty over the islets.

 

According to the Japan Coast Guard, around 1,000 Chinese government ships were seen in waters near the disputed islands last year, setting a record high. The figure stood at 381 between January and April this year, up from 286 in the same period last year.

 

Of the ships seen around the islands in January to April, 28 entered Japanese waters.

 

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono slammed the Chinese ships’ pursuit of the Japanese fishing boat at a recent press conference, saying that it could not be considered “innocent passage.”

 

Under international law, ships may enter foreign territorial waters for innocent passage, or passage without harming the safety or order of the country.

 

The waters around the Senkaku Islands are patrolled by the Maritime Self-Defense Force, as well as the Japan Coast Guard. If the coast guard is unable to deal with a situation, it can request the SDF to step in as a maritime security operation.

 

However, a government source said that if Japan deploys the SDF, “the Chinese side will tell the international community that ‘Japan responded to Chinese ships with military force,’ justifying the dispatch of a warship to the waters.”

 

China has been introducing bigger coast guard ships in recent years. More than one 3,000-ton class ship may enter Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands together.

 

While the size of the Japan Coast Guard’s biggest patrol ship is 6,500 tons, its Chinese counterpart has two 10,000-ton class ships including the Haijing 2901, both apparently equipped with heavy-caliber cannons matching those of warships, Japan Coast Guard and Defense Ministry officials said.

 

“If a 10,000-ton class ship appears near the Senkaku Islands, it may stay through harsh weather and continue provocations for a long period,” a government source said.

 

The Defense Ministry believes that the Haijing 2901 has been assigned to a unit, while the other 10,000-ton class vessel is believed to have conducted patrol in the South China Sea.

 

Questions linger as to how Japan’s SDF and coast guard should deal with territorial water intrusions, a “grey area” of acts that do not amount to military attacks.

 

 

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