Despite China Tensions, Japan Conducts Marine Survey Around Senkakus

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A crew member grabs a survey drone on a work boat off the Senkaku Islands on Monday.

ON BOARD THE SHINSEI MARU — A marine survey around the Senkaku Islands of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, was conducted Monday by the city. This was the second such environmental conservation survey since the one conducted in January last year.

Based on the data collected, the city will consider measures to protect rare wildlife.

A Yomiuri Shimbun reporter accompanied the team this time. The 997-ton Shinsei Maru survey boat, with Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama and Tokai University researchers commissioned by the city aboard, arrived at an area about three kilometers off the southern coast of Uotsuri Island at around 7:50 a.m. Monday. The researchers flew a drone several times to within 300 meters of the island and took images of the surface.

The survey was conducted to assess the impact of garbage drifting to Uotsuri Island and other islands, as well as the damage to vegetation caused by goats. The number of fish, the water temperature, salinity, and other undersea environmental conditions in the surrounding waters will also be examined.

The Shinsei Maru was scheduled to return to Ishigaki Port on Monday night.

As if on the lookout for such a move from Japan, a China Coast Guard vessel approached the work boat at around 4 a.m. Monday as the Shinsei Maru navigated the Senkakus in the contiguous zone, which stretches about 22 kilometers from Japan’s territorial waters. From the work boat, the red lights of the CCG vessel could be visually confirmed.

According to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, a CCG vessel entered the territorial waters off Minami-Kojima Island in the Senkaku Islands at around 6:07 a.m. Monday.

When the CCG vessel made a move to approach the work boat, a patrol vessel of the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters intervened to ensure the safety of the work boat and continued to call for the CCG vessel to leave territorial waters.

Over the years, the activities of CCG vessels have been escalating.

On Monday, the Japanese government protested to the Chinese side through diplomatic channels in response to the CCG vessel’s intrusion into territorial waters.