Asia and OceaniaOngoing

Boundaries: Senkaku Islands

Chinese hostility in and around the South and East China Seas puts Japan in a bad position.

Despite the attention given to the South China Sea, the tension between China and Japan is due to the Senkaku Islands. Fifteen coastguard ships escorted in excess of 300 fishing boats while circling the Senkaku islands and some were armed. During this week, they entered and exited Japanese territory while seemingly playing cat and mouse. Once they left their message was clear, the territorial dispute was not resolved. The southern tip of the archipelago island in Japan has become incredibly dangerous as a result of aggressive Chinese expansionism in Asia.

Ishigaki island is a sleepy Japanese refuge with mango orchards and pineapple fields. Tourists travel here for the scuba diving and beautiful beaches. This island represents the nearest Japanese town to the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in dispute. The ownership claims by Taiwan, Japan and Tokyo combined with the location have made these islands a potential for war and the stress is obvious from Washington to Tokyo. The maritime ambitions of Beijing are centered on a specific island chain. Artificial islands have been constructed for guns, radar and runways on the previously submerged reefs of coral.

There has been less attention focused on the East China Sea but this does not make the hostility less real. Japan is a powerful rival partially due to the protection of the United States. There is a treaty between the two countries stating if the territory of Tokyo is attacked, the United States will provide aid. No hotline has yet been established for military communication when necessary. James Mattis is the defence secretary for the United States. He traveled to Tokyo to confirm America would defend the islands. He made it clear the Senkaku Islands belong to Japan leading to a statement from China that the politician had made the wrong remarks and placed Asia at risk.

The tourists on Ishigaki have not noticed the problem but the lives of the residents are being transformed due to the tension. The boats of the fishermen are much smaller than the Chinese ships and fear a collision. Four years previously, there was a Chinese coastguard ship approximately 150 times larger than a typical tuna boat. The fisherman have heeded warnings to stay away out of fear. The Japanese are afraid of the Chinese fleets establishing control around the fishing grounds to show they are in control. Coastguard ships are regularly sighted heading to the islands escorting fishing boat fleets. The violations into Japanese waters appear to be on a schedule.

According to Japan, the Chinese fleet encompasses the biggest coastguard patrol worldwide, naval ships and armed vessels. Japan has responded by expanding their coastguard. The Senkakus is approximately a six hour trip both ways but the patrols are there every day. The defenses of Japan are being tested by the air force of China. Two times each day there are Japanese fighter jets warning incoming aircraft to leave the area. Some of the people of Ishigaki believe Japan should have asserted control before China became so powerful.

The main Senkaku island has a pier fishermen used for shelter during bad weather. This area has also become dangerous. The potential for disaster due to the uncompromising stance of China is great. The territories currently being disputed include DMZ, the demilitarized zone separating South and North Korea, The Russian Kuril islands Japan claims belongs to their northern territories, the Sea of Japan between Japan and North Korea and the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan. The Senkaku Islands are also included along with the Paracel islands, Scarborough shoal and Spratly Islands located in the South China Sea. The concern is temporary economic loss and the fear China will establish a military facility somewhere within this area.

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