By Sayaka Nanbu, Shanghai bureau
On July 24, hundreds of fishing boats were moored at Shishi port in Fujian Province ahead of China’s lifting in August of the ban on fishing near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. A 50-year-old fisherman said: “We can catch quality fish (in the waters near the Senkaku Islands), so it’s natural that we go there.”
Last year, Chinese authorities instructed fishermen not to fish near the Senkakus out of consideration for Japan-China ties, which were back on a recovery track. But another fisherman said some fishermen fished near the Senkakus despite the instruction.
The Chinese government led by Xi Jinping insisted that it has the right to respond to a plan to change the name of the area containing the Senkakus, which was approved by the Ishigaki municipal assembly in Okinawa Prefecture in June. Japanese government insiders are wary that China may allow some fishing boats to head to the waters near the Senkakus this year.
China Coast Guard (CCG) public vessels chase Japanese fishing boats in Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkakus in a bid to make a strong statement about China’s sovereignty by emphasizing China’s right of law enforcement based on its long-term goal to change the status quo of the islands. China also appears to be trying to see how the U.S., Japan’s ally, will react amid the escalating conflict between Beijing and Washington.
A Chinese Communist Party insider says China believes “Japan does not have the option of getting into a full-scale confrontation with China” even if China engages in provocative actions near the Senkakus. China also may be thinking that it does not need to give priority to “consideration” for Japan because little progress has been made on rescheduling leader Xi’s state visit to Japan.
The CCG has been increasingly incorporated into the Chinese navy and taken on a strong military hue following a revision to the Law on the People’s Armed Police Force in June this year. The Xi government plans to newly enact a “coast guard law” detailing the CCG’s missions and authorities. The CCG is likely to intensify provocations near the Senkakus to play up its presence.