Japan Coast Guard Plans Construction of Largest-Ever Patrol Vessel as Deterrence to Chinese Incursions in South China Sea

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Senkaku Islands

The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) is planning the construction of its largest-ever multipurpose patrol vessel to beef up its capability to cope with Chinese vessels that repeatedly intrude on Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, several government sources said.

The plan calls for the new vessel to function as an “offshore base” capable of carrying a number of small boats and to deter incursions onto the islands. The ship is also envisioned to be used to evacuate residents on remote islands in the event of a contingency in Taiwan.

The largest patrol vessel currently in the JCG fleet has a gross tonnage of 6,500. According to a draft of the construction plan, the new vessel will have a gross tonnage at least three times larger, and will be approximately 200 meters in length.

The JCG will include the costs in its budget request for fiscal 2025, and aims to have the vessel in the water by fiscal 2029 at the earliest. There is also a proposal for a second ship in the future.

The main focus is to improve the agency’s capability to deal with China’s increasingly hegemonic behavior in the East China Sea that includes the area around the Senkaku Islands.

The government surmises there is a high likelihood that a Chinese attempt to invade the islands would involve a landing force of multiple small vessels. In such a case, small ships can be dispatched from the multipurpose patrol vessel to contain those of the enemy.

“If the enemy is aware how difficult it would be to make land, it increases the power of deterrence,” a government source said.

The government is looking into having the new vessel being capable to accommodate a helicopter and being equipped with a command-and-control function. The ship will also be stocked with food and supplies for use as a floating base.

The JCG also intends to make use of the new vessel’s transport capabilities in disaster relief and evacuations. It is also considering deploying the vessel to evacuate residents from the Sakishima Islands and others near Taiwan should China ever launch an armed invasion of Taiwan.

In 2023, the government adopted guidelines outlining procedures for cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and JCG in the event of a contingency. Among the JCG’s specified mission are evacuation of residents and search and rescue operations at sea.