China Coast Guard vessels stay in Japan’s territorial waters off Senkakus for 72 hours, longest since 2012

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An aerial view of some of the Senkaku Islands

For over 72 hours, China Coast Guard vessels stayed in Japan’s territorial waters, the longest continuous intrusion since 2012, Japan’s 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters said Sunday.

The vessels were around the Senkaku Islands, which were nationalized in 2012 as part of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.

While Tokyo and Beijing are making moves to improve bilateral relations as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties, tensions remain high as China continues to intrude into Japanese territorial waters and sail in contiguous zones around the islands.

The regional coast guard headquarters said that two China Coast Guard vessels entered the Japanese territorial waters at about 9:34 a.m. on Thursday to seemingly follow a 9.7-ton Japanese ship operating near Taisho Island of the Senkakus.

Subsequently, two other China Coast Guard vessels entered the territorial waters and the four sailed in Japan’s territorial waters together. The latter two remained in the territorial waters after the first two left. All China Coast Guard vessels finally left Japan’s territorial waters at about 10:19 a.m. Sunday, meaning a total presence of 72 hours 45 minutes.

During this duration, the Japan Coast Guard dispatched patrol boats around the two-man Japanese fishing boat and repeatedly warned the Chinese vessels to leave the waters.

The previous longest continuous duration of Chinese vessels staying in Japanese territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands was 64 hours 17 minutes in July this year.

According to the Japan Coast Guard, in 2022 China Coast Guard vessels intruded in Japan’s territorial waters off the Senkakus for a total of 36 days as of Sunday, nearing the 40 days in 2021.

Chinese vessels entering Japan’s contiguous zones around the islands this year totaled 328 days as of Sunday, exceeding 300 days for the third consecutive year as Beijing apparently seeks to normalize these sailings.

Last month, a large ship armed with a naval-level 76mm gun entered Japan’s territorial waters for the first time.

That same month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping held the first official in-person meeting between the leaders of the two nations in about three years. They agreed to steadily develop bilateral relations.

China, however, continues to make provocative moves such as military drills by a Chinese carrier strike group featuring the Liaoning aircraft carrier joined by China Coast Guard vessels. The drills were staged under the scenario of attacking Japan’s Nansei Islands that stretch across Okinawa Prefecture to southern Kagoshima Prefecture.