In yet another act of international provocation, China’s Coast Guard sent boats to patrol a stretch of disputed waters claimed by several nations. In recent years, China has been sending planes, boats, and even rockets into disputed spaces, causing alarm in neighboring countries and the international community at large.
On Tuesday, China said it had sent Coast Guard boats to patrol the Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by Japan and Taiwan. The uninhabited islands sit Northeast of Taiwan, East of China, and Southwest of Japan in the East China Sea. They are also known as the Diaoyu Islands, the Pinnacle Islands, or the Tiaoyutai Islands.
Starting in the 16th century, China controlled the islands, but in subsequent centuries, there were various wars and disputes between China and Japan. Japan claims that China gave the islands to Japan and that they were still Japanese islands after WWII. The United States took control of the islands during the war, eventually returning them to Japanese control in 1972.
However, potential undersea oil reserves in the area have ramped up the countries’ desires to control the islands, heightening tensions around them. Taiwan, China, and Japan all seek to lay undisputed claim to those islands, as well as a few other islands in the area, as they would be strategic bases for oil drilling operations.
For China particularly, uninhabited islands in the Pacific also offer potential military bases. The Chinese military has been active in recent years in building islands, claiming disputed areas, and flaunting international agreements.
China has installed a research buoy near the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea, which are the subject of a territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing, reports Japanese newspaper Yomiuri. pic.twitter.com/SVbFSNtFh1
— S p r i n t e r (@Sprinter99800) September 19, 2023
Civilians and fishermen are usually banned from visiting the islands in order to prevent escalating tensions between the nations. However, in recent years, Chinese fishing boats and Coast Guard vessels have been sailing near the islands more often, often being chased away by Japanese Coast Guard boats.
China has also been warning Japan about occupying the islands. This year, they have been radioing warnings to Japanese planes not to fly over the Senkaku Islands and are more aggressively claiming the islands as their own.
In this most recent incident, the four Chinese Coast Guard vessels stayed in the area for around two hours before sailing North. The Japanese Coast Guard released a bulletin urging the vessels to leave “our territorial waters,” and also reported that Chinese vessels had last entered the area on January 27.