Up to six Chinese law enforcement agency vessels, roughly analogous to Coast Guard Cutters, have entered the territorial waters of islands administered by Japan, and Japanese Coast Guard Cutters responded. It does not look like the disagreement is going to go away quietly. Anti-Japanese anger is being nurtured in China. Both China and Japan are preparing for a leadership change, and no one wants to look weak.
Illustration: from CIA map
A good summary of events is here. A second source indicates the Chinese have “1,000” fishing vessels en route.
“And, whether we like it or not, Washington is involved.“
The Chinese have taken an additional step and filed a claim on the islands with the UN describing its interpretation of where the baselines are drawn and enacted a national law that,
“prohibits foreign warships and vessels from entering the waters around the Diaoyu Islands without permission from the Chinese government.”
This seems to reflect China’s broader interpretation of the ability of a state to restrict access to its EEZ.
If the situation were not complicated enough, don’t forget there is a third party here, who are also inserting themselves in the mix. Taiwan also claims these islands and have also sent their Coast Guard into the area.
Photos of some of the players here.
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The US Naval Institute News service offers a document on the ongoing maritime disputes instigated by China by the always interesting Ronald O’Rourke,
the President states definitively that the disputed Islands are included under US/Japan Defense treaty: http://www.bnowire.com/2014/04/24/obama-says-u-s-would-defend-japan-in-islands-dispute-with-china/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=obama-says-u-s-would-defend-japan-in-islands-dispute-with-china
Definitively? Sorry, and trying not to be political, but nothing he says seems “definitive.” He says, Article 5…and that includes the Senkaku Islands. Then, he says we do not take a position on rightful claim and we support peaceful resolution/discussions or some such comment that returns a lot of grey shading. That leads to a follow-up question later, where his answer seems to return to the side of Japan more firmly. This talking out of both sides of his mouth, rather than definitively, is dangerous with people like the Chinese (or Syria, Iran, Pakistan, No. Korea, Russia, etc., etc.).
Imagine how China would take it, if he said: The Senkaku Islands have been possessed and administered by Japan for almost 120 years, through two world wars and three regional wars, so in the US’ opinion, they are definitively the possessions of Japan, and the US is obligated to defend Japan under our mutual defense treaty. (Period, done, leave no doubt…) The Chinese could and would dispute that point verbally, but they’d have a much more thorny problem to consider — the possibility of turning a major regional conflict into a world war — over some tiny islands… Considering the long-term, big-picture viewpoint the Chinese take, this conflict would go away.
It’s ironic, as this could have been Obama’s Reagan-at-the-Berlin-Wall moment. Now, it’s just more wishy-washy, no self-confidence/doesn’t know/understand about foreign relations mess…
This may sound familiar if you remember when a Chinese fighter had a mid-air with a USN EP-3 that resulted in the loss of the fighter and the EP-3 making a force landing on Hainan Island.
Taiwan makes a move, building a new port: http://www.ibtimes.com/taiwan-build-100m-port-disputed-region-south-china-sea-china-does-not-react-1590010
Japan is trying to help Vietnam and the Philippines, but currently there existing Coast Guard ships are at full stretch. http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Japan-Needs-Time-to-Provide-Ships-to-Vietnam-2014-05-28/
And what the Chinese are telling their people. http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140531/DEFREG03/305310024/China-slams-Hagel-threats-state-TV
Japanese react to threats by moving Anti-Ship Cruise missiles into the area, China does not like it: http://news.usni.org/2014/06/18/china-reacts-japanese-anti-ship-missile-positioning#more-8192
The Chinese are whipping up anti-Japanese sentiments by publishing “confessions” of Japanese war crimes (real and/or imagined): http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140703/DEFREG03/307030023/China-Release-Daily-Japanese-War-Crimes-Confession-?odyssey=mod|
Speculation here about the possible motivations for a conflict between China and Japan. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/great-war-the-east-china-sea-why-china-japan-could-fight-10877
Pretty good summary of the situation here: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-japans-nationalization-move-the-east-china-sea-shaped-11549?page=4
Taiwan is still in the game, http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141105/DEFREG03/311050027/Taiwan-Defence-Minister-Visits-Disputed-Spratlys
Japan and China agree to disagree: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/world/asia/china-japan-reach-accord-on-disputed-islands-senkaku-diaoyu.html?ref=world&_r=0
China builds air and naval base within 300 Km of disputed islands and only 100 Km from Okinawa: http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1101&MainCatID=11&id=20141223000098
A report on Chinese construction of destroyers and cruisers and how it is changing the balance of power in disputed waters. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/naval/ships/2015/01/08/taiwan/21379159/
The Japanese see the Chinese aggressiveness more seriously than we do and suspect our motives: http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/US-gets-cozy-with-China-leaving-Japan-officials-flabbergasted
China CG in disputed Japanese waters. http://gcaptain.com/chinese-patrol-vessels-approach-disputed-senkaku-islands-as-u-s-reaffirms-commitment-to-japan/
Apparently the Chinese are planning on putting their new 10,000 ton OPVs in a position to directly oppose the Japanese. I a shoving match these ships would definitely have an edge. http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20150615000037&cid=1101
Japan is sending more Coast Guard assets south to counter Chinese incursions. http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/japanese-coast-guard-aims-to-protect-territorial-waters-from-chinese-1.364867
“The strategy calls for a unit of small patrol vessels to be placed on a still undetermined island in the Yaeyama chain along with six 1,000-ton large patrol vessels on Ishigaki, the largest of the Yaeyama Islands, accompanied by port upgrades that will facilitate the move, spokesman Shinya Terada said Wednesday. Yaeyama is about 90 miles east of northern Taiwan.
“The move would increase the number of coast guard patrol vessels and small crafts in the southern region from 33 to 42 by March, the end of the Japanese fiscal year.”
Looks like Japan and Taiwan are coming to an accommodation. http://www.shingetsunewsagency.com/SNA/News/Entries/2013/4/19_Adult_Wisdom__The_Japan-Taiwan_Fisheries_Deal.html
I wonder if Chinese actions will cause more nations in the region to develop diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The US has refused to sell them F-16s. They really want F-35B vertical take off 5th generation fighters that are not tied to airfields that can be pre-targeted by Chinese missiles.
Will be interesting to see how the next administration acts.
Sounds like Japan is planning to use their Navy rather than their CG to confront Chinese intrusions. http://thediplomat.com/2016/01/japans-msdf-will-help-guard-disputed-islands-from-chinese-warships/
does Japan have a plan in place to up gun their coast guard if the situation requires it?
Their cutters do have guns already, 20 to 40 mm. I doubt if they have plans beyond that. Their CG is not military, and they don’t have a close relationship with their Navy comparable to that between the USCG and USN. They don’t even use the same fuel in their ships.
“China on ‘High Alert’ to Prevent Japan from Entering South China Sea Disputes”.
Japan cautions China not to take unilateral action to disturb the status quo http://www.marinelink.com/news/activities-maritime403902.aspx
A look at the “Coast Guard Arms Race” between China and Japan. I would note that intentionally ramming a ship that is underway and under command is not as easy as the Chinese seem to think, but glancing blows are not too difficult and should a large Chinese Cutter bump against a USN cruiser or DDG, it will be very expensive. http://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2016/05/23/a_coast_guard_arms_race_109386.html
“China Confirms Air Confrontation with Japan Over East China Sea” Chinese and Japanese fighters meet over disputed islands “The Japanese defense ministry said Tuesday that Japan scrambled against Chinese military planes about 200 times in April, May, and June, up from last year’s 80 times in the same period.”
China CG and numerous Chinese F/V enter waters of Japan administered islands. http://gcaptain.com/east-china-sea-tensions-flare-between-japan-and-china/
China threatens Japan if they participate in Freedom of Navigation exercises. Note this is a Russian report. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2016/08/mil-160821-sputnik02.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e1797%2ejj0ao001ud%2e1nht
Hundreds of Chinese F/V and 28 China CG vessels swarm Japanese waters. http://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2016/08/30/east_china_sea_dress_rehearsal_for_invasion_109769.html
More on China’s massive incursion. “Little Green Boats” http://gcaptain.com/little-green-boats-japan-high-alert/
Good picture of the Chinese Coast Guard compared to its neighbors. They now have 95 vessels over 1,000 tons, about twice that of the USCG. http://chinapower.csis.org/maritime-forces-destabilizing-asia/
Chinese CG inside territorial sea of disputed islands. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2016/11/mil-161106-sputnik03.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e1863%2ejj0ao001ud%2e1poj
This is the one are where China might have a case. But they will not take it to the tribunal because that would make the process applicable to other disputes.
Japan is beefing up its Coast Guard in response to the Chinese. http://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/japan-plans-to-increase-coast-guard-forces-in-the-east-china-sea/3647218.html
Maybe we have a developing “cutter gap.”
Another incursion. https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/4-china-coast-guard-vessels-enter-japan-administered-waters-near-disputed-east-china-sea-islands/
I don’t see that the Chinese are doing anything illegal, but it is provocative. https://www.bairdmaritime.com/work-boat-world/maritime-security-world/1429-feature-submarine-diplomacy-surfaces-in-island-dispute