Chinese ships enter Japan waters 1st time under new coast guard law

Japan | Sat, February 6, 2021 | 07:38 pm

Chinese coast guard vessels on Saturday entered Japan’s territorial waters near the China-claimed Senkaku Islands for the first time since its new coast guard law took effect this month, Japanese officials said. Around 4:45 a.m., two Chinese coast guard boats entered Japanese waters near the uninhabited islands. According to the Japan Coast Guard, they remained there until around 1:15 p.m. The law, which came into force on Monday, specifically allows the Chinese coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships which Beijing sees as entering its waters illegally.

Following the incident, the fourth in China this year, the Japanese government set up a special team at the office of the prime minister to examine the situation, officials said. According to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, located in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, two Japanese fishing boats were sailing in the waters near a group of small islands known as Diaoyu in China. In a move apparently aimed at approaching them, the Chinese vessels pointed their bows toward the fishing boats around 4:52 a.m. Around 22 kilometers south of Minamikojima, one of the islets, the headquarters said that Japanese coast guard ships had been deployed there to guard them.

Two other Chinese coast guard warships, one of which appeared to be carrying a cannon, cruised just outside Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkakus in the so-called contiguous region, it said. If the contiguous zone is included, it was the eighth day in a row that Chinese vessels had been spotted near the islets. Around the Japan-administered Senkakus, Chinese coast guard vessels have been regularly spotted, particularly under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, who aims to turn the country into a’ maritime force.’

Last year, Chinese ships were reported to be sailing for a total of 333 days in the contiguous region, reaching an all-time high. China has maritime sovereignty disputes with many Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, in addition to its claim to the Senkakus. In telephone talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga late last month, new US President Joe Biden reiterated Washington’s “unwavering commitment” to secure the Senkakus under the long-standing security treaty between the two countries.

Tokyo expressed “strong concern” over the new legislation, which also authorizes the Chinese coast guard to seize foreign ships entering waters claimed by Beijing, during an online Japan-China meeting on maritime issues on Wednesday. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday that in the bilateral meeting it insisted that the legislation is completely in line with international law and practice.

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