Tokyo Reports Unprecedented Presence of Chinese Ships Near Japan-Controlled Islands

Significant Increase in the Presence of Chinese Ships in Japanese Waters

The diplomatic tensions between China and Japan are escalating amidst the record-breaking presence of Chinese coast guard ships in areas near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands. Recently, Tokyo detailed a significant increase in the time spent by Chinese government vessels in the disputed water territories over the past year.

According to the Japanese authorities, the ships were present in the contiguous zone or territorial waters at least 333 days in 2020 — a record achievement since Japan’s government began documenting these occurrences in 2008. This figure signifies an increase in the presence of Chinese vessels near the Senkaku islands of about 64% from the previous year.

The Senkaku Islands, also known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, are a group of uninhabited islands located in the East China Sea. They have been under Japanese administration since 1972 but are also claimed by China and Taiwan. The increased frequency of Chinese vessels’ presence in these contested waters underscores the heightening of tensions and the potential for territorial disputes in the region.

Mining the official data further reveals that during their near-constant presence, the Chinese ships have made several incursions into Japan’s territorial waters. Most notably, in July 2020, the Chinese vessels set another record by staying within Japanese territorial waters for 39 consecutive hours, demonstrating a significant escalation over past intrusions.

This information highlights an aggressive maritime posture by China in the East China Sea. However, China has defended its actions arguing that it has the right to patrol regions within its own territorial waters. China has stated that the Diaoyu Islands and surrounding waters are part of its inherent jurisdiction, hence the robust presence of Chinese Coast guard ships undertaking law enforcement activities.

In addition to the increase, Japan points out that the Chinese vessels have adopted an aggressive approach, occasionally giving chase to Japanese fishing boats. Japan’s Coast Guard has had to step in on several occasions to assure the safety of local fisher folk against these actions.

Furthermore, the situation is becoming increasingly complex due to legislative changes in China. The country recently passed a new law allowing its coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships that China sees as illegally entering its waters. This move attracted criticism from Japan, which called out the law as a potential risk to peace in the region.

In response, Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Prime Minister, has advocated staying alert and strengthening Japan’s system to respond to emergencies. He expressed willingness to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully amidst concerns for stability in the region.

The recent increased presence and activities of Chinese ships around the Senkaku Islands indicate the mounting pressures over the territorial claims in the East China Sea. This situation acts as a litmus test for diplomacy and conflict resolution strategies that both nations must prioritize to prevent an inadvertent escalation of tensions in this vital region.