The government suspects that China has been obtaining sailing schedules of Japanese fishing boats that operate in Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkakus (Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture), Sankei Shimbun learned from a government source. China Coast Guard ships have repeatedly approached Japanese boats in the area, and even when their schedules changed and they did not sail, the Chinese ships were dispatched to waters near the Senkakus based on the boats’ original schedules.
The local fishing community is informed of the operations of fishing boats in waters near the Senkakus, as is the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), which is responsible for their protection. China claims sovereignty over the Senkakus, and its repeated dispatch of coast guard vessels to the area is likely an attempt to demonstrate its claim by exercising jurisdiction over Japanese boats operating in the area.
The Chinese government is likely using satellite data and other means to ascertain Japanese boats’ schedules. “The Chinese ships never fail to show up when we sail to the Senkakus,” local fishermen have complained in the past. Confirmation that the Chinese ships sailed to the Senkakus despite the Japanese boats’ not getting underway as scheduled suggests the original schedules somehow leaked to China.
According to a government source, in late August, a group of fishing boats from Yonaguni island (Yonaguni, Okinawa) planned to sail to waters around Taisho island in the easternmost area of the Senkakus. The plan was cancelled, however, due to a forecast of unfavorable weather. Nevertheless, Chinese government vessels changed course and headed for Taisho island to wait for the Japanese boats according to their original schedule. Their movement was clearly at variance with the Chinese ships’ routine activities near the Senkakus.
When the same fishing boats sailed to Taisho island several days later, two Chinese vessels entered Japanese territorial waters and attempted to approach the boats. In May and July this year, Chinese ships attempted to drive off Japanese boats as they operated near the Senkakus. On each occasion, the JCG patrol ships sailed between the Chinese vessels and the fishing boats to protect the latter. The JCG is concerned that Chinese interference in Japanese fishing activities might result in a collision or other accident.
On Oct. 7, the JCG confirmed that two Chinese Coast Guard ships were sailing in the contiguous zone of the Senkakus. Chinese government ships have been spotted near the Senkakus for 31 consecutive days.