Japan Coast Guard is patrolling Senkaku Islands. (Photo: Stock File/FIS)
Tension mounts as Chinese boats approach Senkaku Islands
Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 23:30 (GMT + 9)
Tension between Japan and China has been escalating due to reports that hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels were approaching the disputed Senkaku Islands, belonging to the city of Ishigaki -- Okinawa Prefecture --, this week.
A Japan’s Coast Guard vessel detected the Yuzheng 35001 just outside Japanese territorial waters in the East China Sea about 43 km north-northwest of the island of Uotsurishima. The patrol boat warned the Chinese vessel not to enter Japanese territorial waters, but the Chinese ship responded that the islands belong to China and that it was running a legitimate duty, coast guard officials said.
The Yuzheng 35001 then repeatedly entered and left the contiguous zone and was believed to have been accompanying a reported 1,000 fishing boats heading to the Senkaku Islands, although Japan Coast Guard officials said they only saw a few Chinese boats nearby, The Asahi Shimbun reports.
Four vessels from Japan’s Fisheries Agency are helping the Coast Guard conduct patrols around the islands and regional coast guard headquarters may be asked to send patrol boats as well.
“We cannot tell what action the Chinese side will take, but we want to prevent a landing by any means,” a senior coast guard official stated.
Some Chinese cities held anti-Japan protests this month after the Japanese government bought three of the islands from a private landowner in Saitama Prefecture for USD 26 million and nationalized them, RTT News reports.
These protests forced Japanese companies, including Panasonic, to suspend operations in China, CNN reports.
Japan thus expects that some fishing boats may ignore the Coast Guard’s warnings, but it plans to chase away these boats regardless because Japanese law prohibits foreign fishers from harvesting in Japanese waters.
However, Chinese fishers can operate outside Japanese territorial waters under a bilateral fishing agreement, according to the Fisheries Agency.
The Japan Coast Guard also confirmed that two Japanese citizens landed on Uotsurishima in the morning of 18 September and later left the island.
In contrast, the chief of a fisheries cooperative in Ishigaki asked the governments of Japan and China to keep the waters around the Senkaku Islands from becoming an area of dispute. He blamed both countries for disseminating ads that create the impression that Chinese boats were going to attack the Senkaku Islands.
“Most ships are just going fishing because the fishing ban was lifted,” he said. “It is what they are doing every year.”
By Natalia Real