The vessels were sailing in the contiguous zones of the Senkaku Islands, including those around Taisho and Minamikojima islands, on Friday.
“This is an extremely serious situation. We have always deployed more patrol vessels than the other side, taking all possible measures to keep guard,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a Thursday press conference. The Japan Coast Guard has 12 patrol vessels with the duty of monitoring China Coast Guard vessels and protecting Japanese fishing ships.
Contiguous zones extend 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometers) beyond territorial waters, which are the area within 12 nautical miles of the coast. Although foreign vessels are allowed to sail in the zones freely, the coastal state is given certain types of authority such as exercising measures to prevent criminal activities.
The frequency of China Coast Guard vessels entering the contiguous zones increased sharply after Japan nationalized the Senkaku Islands in 2012, becoming an almost regular occurrence from around 2019.
This year, there have been 12 incidents of Chinese vessels approaching Japanese fishing ships, already exceeding last year’s eight incidents. Recently, there have been some cases in which Chinese vessels followed Japanese fishing ships’ movements into Japan’s territorial waters, after lingering in the contiguous zones as if lying in wait for the fishing ships.
In a late February incident, a fishing ship of a 60-year-old fisherman from Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture, was followed by two China Coast Guard vessels in territorial waters near Taisho Island. “Two coast guard vessels were following our fishing ship as if they were trying to pincer us. We even feared they might hit us,” the fisherman said. He said the Chinese vessels had been watching his fishing ship from the contiguous zone.
Tokyo is also concerned about Beijing’s introduction of domestic legislation to pursue its maritime interests. Following China’s implementation of the Coast Guard Law in February, its revised Maritime Traffic Safety Law, which strengthens maritime authorities’ power, is scheduled to take effect in September.
The revised law claims that other countries’ right of innocent passage through territorial seas, which is stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, may not be respected in China’s territorial waters. It does not specify areas covered by the law; instead, it simply states that it covers the waters under China’s jurisdiction.
Takehiro Funakoshi, Director General of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, conveyed his concerns about the law amendment during a teleconference on Thursday held with his Chinese counterpart Hong Liang, director general of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Boundary and Ocean Affairs Department.
Published : June 05, 2021
By : The Japan News/ANN