China Coast Guard Calls for Japan to Leave Waters Around Senkakus in Weibo Posts; Japanese Fishing Vessels Monitored

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A China Coast Guard vessel, center, is shepherded by Japan Coast Guard vessels away from a marine survey off the Senkaku’s Uotsuri Island in Okinawa Prefecture in January 2023.

The China Coast Guard (CCG) has been getting more blatant in its attempt to claim sovereignty over the waters around the Senkaku Islands, warning off Japanese fishing vessels in the area and identifying some by name.

The CCG has been posting its actions on the social media platform Weibo in a way that asserts that it has effective control of the area.

The CCG has been repeatedly sending vessels to intrude into Japan’s territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, and it started such posts around July last year, stressing that it is monitoring individual fishing vessels.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The posts by the CCG’s official Weibo account can be seen going back to July 2018, when it came under the control of the Central Military Commission that oversees China’s military.

Until around 2022, the CCG had continued to post almost the same message using the Chinese name for the Senkaku Islands, saying, “The CCG’s fleet patrolled in the territorial waters of our Diaoyu Dao.”

The first mention of a Japanese vessel in the posts is believed to be one from January 2023, when the Ishigaki city government conducted a marine survey off the islands.

For the survey, a ship with Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama and others on board navigated the area while being escorted by Japan Coast Guard (JCG) patrol vessels. Four Japanese fishing boats were also operating in the area.

The CCG’s post said that “five Japanese vessels [including the survey ship] illegally trespassed into territorial waters … the CCG took the necessary measures in accordance with the law and warned the vessels to leave the waters.”

It is believed that the CCG began singling out Japanese fishing vessels operating in the area from July 2023. The names of at least five ships from Ishigaki and Yonaguni, also in Okinawa Prefecture, can be seen in the Weibo posts.

Regarding JCG patrol vessels conducting security operations off the islands, the CCG has since October 2023 adopted stronger wording, using “illegal trespassing” in its posts rather than “intruding into territorial waters.”

CCG vessels have been activating their Automatic Identification System signals in the waters around the islands since March 2023 to inform others in the surrounding area of their position.

Such a move, along with repeated assertions that it has demanded Japanese fishing vessels leave the area, is likely an attempt by Beijing to claim its effective control of the Senkakus.

The Chinese government in June enforced a new regulation that allows the CCG to detain foreign nationals who enter into waters claimed by Beijing for up to 60 days. The regulation is believed to apply also to the waters around the Senkaku Islands.

When CCG vessels intrude into Japan’s territorial waters, JCG patrol vessels demand they leave the area, and the Japanese government then protests through diplomatic channels. However, it has become a regular practice of CCG vessels to navigate in the waters around the islands.

The Japanese government has stressed that the acts by the CCG are in violation of international law, saying: “The Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory — that is unquestionable both historically and under international law. We will deal with the situation in a firm manner.”