Japan on alert after notification of Chinese military drills in EEZ

A map showing locations where the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will conduct military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills is seen on newspaper reports of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, at a newsstand in Beijing on Wednesday.

Japan has increased vigilance in the area around the Nansei island chain while keeping a close watch on the tense situation in Taiwan following U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

On Wednesday morning, the Japanese government conveyed concerns to China through diplomatic channels as part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) had been included in an area where China said it would conduct live-fire exercises from Thursday.

“We are concerned. We strongly urge a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait issue,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference Wednesday.

According to the Foreign Ministry, conducting training in the EEZ of another country is not a problem under international law. At issue is the fact that a notification about live-fire drills was sent shortly before the exercises were scheduled to start.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force will monitor the surrounding sea and air space with destroyers and patrol aircraft. About 20 refueling aircraft have been deployed to the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture.

“It’s rare for such a large number of those planes to be there at the same time,” a Defense Ministry source said.

A fisheries cooperative in Yonagunijima island, which is about 110 kilometers from Taiwan, received a notice Wednesday from the Japan Coast Guard with information about the timing and location of China’s military drills.

The head of the cooperative Shigenori Takenishi said he would pass on the information to its members. “Some of the fishermen don’t understand how dangerous it could be during the drills,” he said.

Pelosi visit

Matsuno said the Japanese government is “not in a position to comment” on Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

However, a Liberal Democratic Party official said, “There was support but no criticism” during a party meeting that included members of the Foreign Affairs Division on Wednesday.

Pelosi, who has been on a tour of Asia, is expected to arrive in Japan on Thursday night. On Friday, she is scheduled to have breakfast with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and meet House of Representatives Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda.

The Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers are scheduled to hold talks on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministerial meeting that kicked off Wednesday in Cambodia.

Japan hopes the meeting is an opportunity to communicate with China ahead of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations in September, and is closely watching the impact of Pelosi’s Asian tour.