Form seamless territorial security system to protect Senkaku Islands

Don’t allow China to misconstrue the situation to think that it can take the Senkaku Islands by force. Through the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces, it is important to establish a seamless territorial security system.

Chinese government ships continue to enter the contiguous zones off the Senkakus in Okinawa Prefecture. On June 4, their entry into the contiguous zones around the islands that started on Feb. 13 could surpass the current record of 111 straight days, set from April last year.

These Chinese government vessels have further stepped up their provocative activities, such as by intruding into Japanese territorial waters and chasing Japanese fishing boats for extended periods of time. The moves are apparently aimed at controlling Japan’s territorial waters and contiguous zones by creating the appearance that they are covered by China’s laws and regulations.

China’s attempts to unilaterally change the status quo violate Japan’s sovereignty and are totally unacceptable. They are activities that run counter to international law and order. The Japanese government should not only strictly protest against them, but also point out how unfair China is in concert with other countries.

China Coast Guard vessels are usually operating in a team of four ships around the Senkaku Islands. To maintain its numerical superiority, the JCG has deployed more than double the number of patrol boats to issue warnings and urge the Chinese vessels to leave.

However, the CCG reportedly has about twice as many patrol boats as the JCG. China has intimidated the Philippines using a large number of fishing boats, which are believed to be manned by maritime militias, deployed in the South China Sea. Vigilance must also be maintained in the East China Sea.

In order not to give China the slightest chance to take advantage, the Japanese government needs to increase the number of JCG personnel and further improve JCG equipment such as patrol ships.

China’s coast guard law came into force in February to strengthen the military role of the CCG. In response, some members of Japan’s ruling and opposition parties have called for a legal revision that would give the SDF the task of guarding the territorial areas.

There is above all else an urgent need to enhance cooperation between the JCG, which is responsible for maritime security, and the SDF.

The JCG and the Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted joint drills both in March and April, although they had been implemented once a year. The drills were under the scenario of chasing and stopping an unidentified ship. It was the first time in eight years that MSDF destroyers had participated in the exercises.

It is also necessary for the SDF and the U.S. military to conduct joint exercises around the Senkaku Islands. To prevent China from taking reckless actions, the deterrence capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance should be strengthened.

In 2015, the Japanese government allowed Cabinet decisions to be made via telephone to expedite the issuance of maritime security operations and security mobilization to the SDF. It is important to put in place how the JCG and the SDF will act on an ordinary basis when the JCG alone cannot deal with a situation.

The government must also consider under what kind of situations it will issue orders for defense operations and exercise the right to self-defense in the event of an armed attack on an island, among others. It needs to be prepared to make appropriate decisions in the event of a crisis.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 1, 2021.