Starting Friday, Chinese Coast Guard ships, accompanied by more than two hundred fishing vessels, entered disputed waters around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Friday, Chinese Coast Guard vessels entered the 12 nautical mile territorial sea around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands at 1:30 p.m., “navigating around” Chinese fishing vessels.
A release by the Japanese government Saturday noted that six Chinese Coast Guard vessels were accompanying “approximately 230 fishing vessels.” The statement notes that the fishing vessels were “in the surrounding waters” while the Chinese Coast Guard ships remained in the contiguous zone.
On Saturday, the Japanese government noted that instead of the situation deescalating after initial Japanese protests, a seventh Chinese Coast Guard ship entered the contiguous zone.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry protested strongly on Saturday evening, telling the Chinese embassy in Japan that “Japan cannot accept China’s activities as they are unilateral escalation that raise tensions on the ground, and requested to have the Chinese Coast Guard vessels leave the contiguous zone immediately.”
Japan released a follow-up press release on Sunday, noting that despite “repeated protests” to China, “seven Chinese Coast Guard vessels have not exited Japan’s contiguous zone surrounding the Senkaku Islands.”
Sunday’s statement notes that “two additional Chinese government vessels entered the contiguous zone,” and that “two vessels intruded into Japan’s territorial waters.” Japan has not specified which “Chinese government vessels” entered the contiguous waters around the disputed islets.
On Sunday, Japan reiterated its concern to China, noting that “the series of China’s activities are unilateral escalations that significantly raise tensions on the ground.”
When asked to comment on the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying reiterated China’s position on the islands: “China has indisputable sovereignty over them and the adjacent waters.”
The Chinese side is working to properly manage situation in the relevant waters. We strongly hope that the Japanese side will honor its principled agreement with us, deal with the current situation with a cool head instead of taking actions that may raise tension or make things complicated, and make constructive efforts for stability in relevant waters together with us.
Earlier this summer, in a move that was perceived as highly provocative in Japan, China, for the first time, sent a naval vessel into the contiguous zone of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
The contiguous zone is a 12 nautical mile area immediately adjacent to a territorial sea. Under international law, states are able to enforce certain immigration, customs, and other laws in the contiguous zone.
Japan controls and administers the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are also claimed by China.
Outside of the East China Sea dispute with Japan, China has also deployed its coast guard alongside fishing vessels in disputed waters in the South China Sea.