Japan Intercepts Armed Chinese Flotilla Near Disputed Islands
The Japanese government has lashed out at Beijing, condemning an incident wherein a flotilla of Chinese government vessels breached Japan-claimed waters around the around the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.
Tokyo has lodged a formal diplomatic complaint after a Japanese-registered private vessel operating within Japanese-controlled waters was approached by four Chinese Coast Guard ships in the early morning hours of Monday. Tokyo says its coast guard patrols forced the Chinese ships to depart the area.
The encounter was tense, based on the description given to US military news outlet Stars & Stripes, which recounted that "The first Chinese ship approached Minamikojima from the southeast and entered the 12-mile limit at 2:47 a.m., according to the coast guard spokesman. He said the vessel appeared to be armed with a deck-mounted machine-gun."
Three more Chinese ships followed the first armed patrol, after which "A contingent of Japan Coast Guard vessels positioned themselves between the Chinese and Japanese ships and warned the Chinese vessels to leave the area," according to Japanese officials. "The first Chinese vessel departed the waters south of Uotsurijima at 12:35 p.m."
As for the Chinese side, which doesn't recognize Japanese sovereignty over the islands or the surrounding waters, its Marine Police spokesperson Gan Yu said it responded to multiple Japanese ships "illegally" entering the waters of the the Diaoyu islands (China's recognized name for the Senkakus).
"We urge the Japanese side to immediately stop all illegal activities in these waters and ensure that similar incidents will not happen again," Gan said.
The Chinse incursion near the islands was the second this year, after a Jan.10 incident. The longtime dispute has helped to worse Japan-China relations, also at a moment Tokyo's deepened military cooperation with Washington has angered Beijing.
Starting last year the US began pledging military support to Japan in the event of a Chinese attack on the Senkakus. The Biden White House position, recently reaffirmed to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, is that the islands fall under Article V of the Japan-US Security Treaty, which is the basis for mutual defense.