NHK reported on the escalating conflict between the U.S. and China in the Indo-Pacific region and the challenges faced by the Japan Coast Guard in a 60-minute “NHK Special” aired on Sunday. The program said that Chinese government ships have sailed in Japan’s contiguous zone outside the Senkaku islands for a record number of days this year, a figure now approaching 300. The network said the Japan Coast Guard is facing difficult challenges amid the intensifying “tug of war” between the U.S. and China not only in waters near the Senkakus but also in other waters, such as the Taiwan Strait. The program said that after USS Theodore Roosevelt, which the U.S. views as “important deterrence against China,” became inoperable following the coronavirus outbreak in March, China has stepped up maritime activities in the region, including the Taiwan Strait and the Senkakus. The program explained how in accordance with the law Japan’s Coast Guard vessels have been protecting Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands exclusively as a maritime police organization and not as a military organization in an effort to prevent military conflict in the area. A Chinese analyst pointed out that China is stepping up its maritime activities because of the great geostrategic importance of both the East China Sea and South China Sea as key entryways to the open ocean. Another Chinese expert pointed out that Beijing is conscious that public opinion favors guarding national interests.
Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the USFJ Commander, was shown saying that China is trying to fully exploit the coronavirus pandemic and the outbreak on USS Theodore Roosevelt to spread the narrative that U.S. influence in the Pacific region is declining. The general stressed that not only the U.S. but also the international community must stand up and challenge China if it violates international norms and rewrites the rules to the advantage of the Chinese Communist Party. Noting that the U.S. Navy is increasing its activities in Asia to keep China in check, the program reported that James Holmes, a U.S. analyst, said that a sense of crisis is driving the recent U.S. activities in the region, adding that China’s aircraft carrier Shandong is fully operational and China reportedly possesses more naval vessels than the U.S. The program also gave a detailed account of an incident in July in which Chinese vessels entered and remained in Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus for about 70 hours, saying that the burden on the Japan Coast Guard is increasing as its vessels must often deploy to multiple locations at the same time.
The program also reported on a meeting between officials of the Japan Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard in Tokyo in late July, saying the two coast guards began meeting three years ago in light of the situation surrounding the Senkakus. Coast Guard attaché Clint Prindle, who participated in the July meeting, reportedly told the network that the U.S. is utilizing information the Japan Coast Guard obtained through its patrol activities near the Senkakus. The program said the Japan Coast Guard has agreed to use CENTRIXS, a system used by the U.S. military and U.S. allies to share military information, in exchange for not “directly” exchanging military information with the U.S. military given its status as a non-military organization. The program said the Japan Coast Guard is facing a difficult situation in the field as the conflict between the U.S. and China is intensifying.