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Yoshihiko Yamada

【#681(Special)】Counter China’s Intrusion into Japanese Territorial Waters

Yoshihiko Yamada / 2020.05.25 (Mon)

May 22, 2020

China’s plan to seize Japan’s Senkaku Islands and take control of the East China Sea has entered the final stage.

On May 8, four China Coast Guard patrol ships including the 5,000-ton 2501 entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Two of the ships chased Japanese fishing boats of the Yonaguni Fisheries Cooperative of Okinawa prefecture. Chinese patrol ships went into the Japanese territorial waters again on May 9 and stayed until the next day in defiance of the Japan Coast Guard’s request to get out of the Japanese waters. Their entry into the Japanese territorial waters for three consecutive days and their threat to Japanese fishing boats represented their intrusion into the Japanese waters beyond the scope of innocent passage through territorial waters.

The Japanese government’s telephone protest against the action would exert no impact on the Chinese government. Few Foreign countries might have recognized that Chinese patrol ships intruded into Japan’s territorial waters.

Chinese intension to deny Japan’s administrative control

On May 11, Chinese Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a press conference that Chinese patrol ships expelled Japanese fishing boats engaging in illegal fishing within China’s territorial waters and that the Chinese ships stood against obstruction by Japan Coast Guard ships.

He meant China Coast Guard ships enforced law within Chinese territorial waters. His remarks amounted to the denial of Japan’s sovereignty on the Senkaku Islands, virtually telling the international community that the islands are not under the administration of Japan.

Japan’s territories include two island groups that are not under its administration: the Northern Territories and the Takeshima Islands. Even when the two island groups are under foreign occupation, the United States as Japan’s ally would not come to help Japan because the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty covers only territories under Japan’s administration. If the international community fails to recognize the Senkaku Islands as under Japan’s administration, some constraint could be imposed on Japan’s alliance with the U.S.

The total size and capabilities of Chinese patrol ships permanently deployed in waters around the Senkaku Islands have exceeded those of Japan Coast Guard ships. This situation has been communicated to the rest of the world through international broadcasting by China Central Television. China has begun to put the Senkaku Islands under its administration and been propagandizing the fact to the rest of the world.

Construct base facilities on Senkakus

In September 2010, the then Democratic Party of Japan administration returned the captain of a Chinese fishing boat to China after the boat’s ramming into Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels near the Senkaku Islands, withholding his indictment. The then Japanese government’s failure to seek a judicial ruling on the clear criminal act was tantamount to denying on its own administration of the islands.

At present, the Senkaku Islands are left uninhabited, without any plan for their future utilization. No effort is made even for local environmental conservation. Can foreign countries see the islands as under Japan’s administration?

Japan should take immediate actions to clearly put the Senkakus under Japan’s administration. The most effective action would be Japanese nationals’ inhabitation on the islands. The construction of base facilities for international oceanographic research or environmental conservation would be effective. At the very beginning, Japan should conduct oceanographic surveys around the Senkaku Islands.

Firmly maintaining the Senkaku Islands protects people’s life on Okinawa and leads to the maintenance of fishing operations in the East China Sea. Further delay of any action on the islands could amount to abandoning the Japanese territories. I hope to see a swift political decision.

Yoshihiko Yamada is a director of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a professor at Tokai University. He is specialized in maritime issues.