Intrusive China targets Senkaku islands leaving Japan furious

A spotlight is on East China Sea’s Senkaku islands after recent military action by China to achieve its goal of grabbing the islands. The rocky, uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, administered by Japan and known as the Diaoyus in China, has heightened the tension between the two countries. The  presence of immense deposits of oil and gas under the waters surrounding the islandsis the main reason behind China’s strategy to make territorial claims.

Two Chinese coast guard vessels entered Japanese territorial waters close to the Senkaku Islands on July 4. It came aday after a Chinese naval ship was detected there, leaving the Japanese navy furious. Itis not the first time when China has shown its aggressive behaviour. It is 15th time in the last six months when China infiltrated Senkaku islands. This time Chinese vessels were seen monitoring a Japanese fishing boat. Japan which has been closely monitoring China’s maritime activities, told the two Chinese vessels to immediately leave the area as these are administered by Japan.

Japan has registered its protest against the Chinese infiltration. Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs described the infiltration as a breach of international law and assured to respond to China’s actions “calmly and resolutely.” Chinese Coast Guard and even naval ships have been spending record amounts of time in the waters around the Senkaku islands this year, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.

In May Japan lodged protests with Beijing and Moscow after it found Chinese vessels and Russian vessels  operating off the disputed Senkaku islands. Intrusions into the territorial waters around the islets remain relatively infrequent; almost all are done by white hull coast guard vessels. News reports suggested that Beijing’s attempts to enforce its territorial claim have been more direct.

Japan’s Defence Ministry white paper expressed its serious concern about Chinese coast guard activities in the East China Sea, last year. In the preface of the report, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called attention to “problematic provisions” in Beijing’s draconian Coast Guard Law which empowers the Chinese Coast Guard personnel to “demolish” other countries’ structures built on China-claimed reefs and to board and inspect vessels in waters claimed by China. Enacted in February 2021, the law was inconsistent with international law, Kishi wrote and added thatthe  CCG Law must not be allowed to infringe on the legitimate interests of the relevant countries including Japan. Furthermore, the raising of tensions in the East China Sea and other sea areas is completely unacceptable, the minister added.

The defense report left  little doubt about China’s role as Japan’s biggest national security threat, necessitating not only a bolstering of Tokyo’s alliance with the United States, but also an increase of Japan’s own defense capabilities. The white paper findings were obviously disliked by China. The unapologetic China sent a  fleet of four Chinese coast guard vessels sent into territorial waters off the disputed Senkaku Island.Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun had reported that intrusion as the 152nd consecutive day of China’s “gray-zone” activity around the Senkakus, the highest number on record since the islands were purchased by the Japanese government in 2012.

China’s stepped up incursions in and around Japanese waters which will have serious implications for Japan.  China has been pursuing a strategy of friction, attrition and containment against Japanto harass, encumber and weigh them. The strategy is part of President Xi Jinping’s aggressive expansionism.  However,  China has been making efforts to police the waters off the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in recent years to weaken Japan’s control and strengthen its own sovereignty claims.

According to international experts, Xi’s regime has been pushing expansive claims on the basis of an ingenious principle — “what is ours is ours and what is yours is negotiable.” That’s what China did in case of Bhutan’s eastern region, which shares a border only with India.  Experts further said that

China’s various territorial claims including in East China Sea is based not on international law. For instance, the Chinese Communist Party’s practice is to furtively occupy another nation’s territory and then claim that the captured area was part of China since ancient times. It is time for Japan to learn from the CCP’s illegal practices and not make mistakes in future.

It is time for the international community to voice their concerns in various ways about China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force. If not done, then it can escalate tensions, undermine regional stability, and disrupt the international rules-based order, say experts.