One week after Japan vocally complained to China over what it alleged was a fleet of 300 Chinese vessels spotted near the disputed territory of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, with Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama summoning and complaining to China’s Ambassador Cheng Yonghua that the incident had infringed on Japan’s sovereignty, the Japanese coast guard released a video showing hundreds of Chinese vessels sailing in the contentious territory. The aerial footage indicates the high level of tension in the area.
The video, which was shot from inside a low-flying patrol aircraft, has been released online by the Japanese Coast Guard, the Japan Times reported on Tuesday. The footage shows 200 to 300 Chinese fishing boats accompanied by 28 Chinese patrol ships spotted in areas just outside Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus, as well as Japanese patrol ships trying to prevent the Chinese ships from advancing into the disputed area.
Toward the end of the video, the 1,500-ton Japanese patrol ship Aguni, armed with 20mm cannon, approaches a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and a fishing boat. The Aguni then flashes a warning: “Your ship has intruded into the territorial waters of our country … passage in Japanese waters is not allowed. Get out of this area immediately,” according to Japanese captions to the video cited by the newspaper.
As RT reports, the Japanese Coast Guard later claimed that seven out of 18 Chinese patrol vessels spotted around the Senkakus were equipped with what “looked like machine guns,” according to the Japan Times. “Actions by the Chinese side like this, which will escalate the situation, are not tolerable,” the Japanese Coast Guard said in a statement.
The Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan but are claimed by China. The incident added fuel to tensions between Tokyo and Beijing.
The heated dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over the national affiliation of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dates back to 2012, when the Japanese government nationalized the islands' ownership. Beijing has never recognized the move, claiming Chinese authority over the islands. Chinese ships, mostly fishing boats, have frequently sailed in the disputed area since the islands came under Japanese-claimed authority.
In another notable escalation, over the weekend, the Japanese government announced it would develop land-to-sea missiles with a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) to protect the nation’s isolated islands, including the Senkaku, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information. Costs for development will be part of the defense ministry’s budgetary request for the fiscal year ending March 2018, according to the Yomiuri. The government will aim for deployment around the year ending March 2024, it said.
China's nationalist Global Times paper immediately responded, saying :"Japan's decision to develop surface-to-sea missiles with a range of 300 kilometers to cover the disputed islands shows the country may be eyeing a shift to an offensive posture, analysts said.
"Japan is trying to use the missile system to lock down the Miyako Strait and prevent Chinese forces from entering the Western Pacific Ocean," Zhou Yongsheng, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.
Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian studies at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said the 300-kilometer range missiles could target China's coastal areas. He said if the reported 300-kilometer range is true, it would mean Japan is ready for a hard fight. "The range is higher than that of Russia's S-300 surface-to-air missile system, and better than China's current surface-to-air missile system."
As a reminder, in the latest military development, yesterday China disclosed it had sent a military liaison to Syria where he announced China would provide Syria with military training and supplies, effectively siding with Russia in the ongoing Syrian conflict.