Trends in China Coast Guard and Other Vessels in the Waters Surrounding the Senkaku Islands, and Japan's Response
September 9, 2022
- In December 2008, two ships belonging to China’s State Oceanic Administration suddenly intruded into the territorial waters of Japan surrounding the Senkaku Islands. The Japanese government used patrol boats from the Japan Coast Guard demanding the Chinese ships to leave the territorial waters and made protest through diplomatic routes in a resolute manner. The incident was not only an act in contravention of law, but also an indication that China had begun to challenge the status quo using force and coercion.
- In September 2010, a Chinese fishing vessel in Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands deliberately crashed into Japanese Coast Guard patrol vessels. In September 2012, the ownership of three of the Senkaku Islands (Uotsuri, Kitakojima, Minamikojima Islands) was transferred from private citizens to the Government of Japan. Since then, China has been using this as an excuse to send the Coast Guard and other agencies’ ships into Japan’s contiguous zone almost every day except for stormy weather days, and these ships intrude into Japanese territorial waters several times a month.
- Further, in January 2021, China established the Coast Guard Law, which stipulates the authorities and powers of the China Coast Guard. This law contains problematic provisions in terms of consistency with international law, such as an ambiguous applicable sea area and authorization for the use of weapons. It, therefore, requires close scrutiny to prevent the loss of legitimate interests for all concerned countries, including Japan.
- China Coast Guard ships persistently continue unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the waters around the Senkaku Islands. This includes approaching Japanese fishing vessels inside Japanese territorial waters and intrusions by ships mounted with artillery.
The Senkaku Islands are indisputably an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law, and are, in fact, effectively under the Japanese control. In the first place, there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands.
It is a violation of international law for the China Coast Guard ships to act making their own assertions in Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, and such acts will absolutely not be tolerated.
- Japan has been conveying its position and expressing strong concern to China, over China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo, and strongly urging China to correct their behaviors, through high-level channels, including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Each time China Coast Guard ships intrude into Japan's territorial waters, on-site Japanese patrol vessels demand them to leave, and at the same time, the Japanese Government promptly lodges a strong protest against the Chinese Government through diplomatic channels, strongly demanding the vessels leave immediately and that China prevent such an incident from occurring again.
The Japanese government is determined to firmly and perpetually defend Japan’s territorial land, sea and airspace and will continue to deal with the situation in a resolute and calm manner while firmly maintaining its position.