Ships patrol Diaoyu Islands in advance of anniversary

China sends large coastguard flotilla to mark Japan’s purchase of disputed islands last year

    Wednesday, 11 September, 2013 [Updated: 10:00AM]
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Vessels from the China Maritime Surveillance and the Japan Coast Guard near the disputed Diaoyu Islands. Photo: Reuters

China and Japan entered into a fresh round of bitter exchanges over their territorial row in the East China Sea yesterday – one day ahead of the anniversary of Japan’s purchase of the disputed Diaoyu Islands.

Beijing sent seven coastguard ships to patrol around the islands, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan, prompting Tokyo to lodge a formal protest and raise the possibility of stationing Japanese government workers on the island.

The latest Chinese patrol was the 59th since last September, when Tokyo announced that it would buy several of the islands, China’s State Oceanic Administration said.

In response, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoned China’s ambassador in Tokyo, Cheng Yonghua, to protest against the patrol. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said the ministry was strengthening its surveillance of the islands.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said stationing government workers on the islands was an “option”..

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei hit back at Tokyo’s claims, saying Japan has to “remedy mistakes” and China was “seriously concerned” about Japan’s plans.

“Japan has to bear all the consequences if it recklessly takes provocative moves,” Hong said.

The State Oceanic Administration gave detailed accounts of its law enforcement since last September. It said vessels had gone within 0.28 nautical miles of the islands during the patrols. Japanese vessels had come within 10 metres of Chinese ships.

President Xi Jinping told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a brief encounter on the sidelines of a G20 summit in St Petersburg last week that Sino-Japanese ties faced “grave difficulties”.

A report by Kyodo, citing Japanese government sources, said Japan was exploring a formal meeting between the two leaders at next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Indonesia, but Tokyo was also planning to set up by 2015 a special military unit dedicated to “reclaiming islands”.

Da Zhigang, an expert in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said a quick improvement in relations is unlikely. “No one is sure if Abe is sincere or not,” he said.

 

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1307944/ships-patrol-diaoyu-islands-advance-anniversary

China and Japan step up drone race as tension builds over disputed islands

Both countries claim drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn of future skirmishes in region’s airspace

 

China-Japan tensions

The row between China and Japan over the disputed islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – has escalated recently. Photograph: AP

Drones have taken centre stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan as they struggle to assert their dominance over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

China is rapidly expanding its nascent drone programme, while Japan has begun preparations to purchase an advanced model from the US. Both sides claim the drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn the possibility of future drone skirmishes in the region’s airspace is “very high”.

Tensions over the islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – have ratcheted up in past weeks. Chinese surveillance planes flew near the islands four times in the second half of December, according to Chinese state media, but were chased away each time by Japanese F-15 fighter jets. Neither side has shown any signs of backing down.

Japan’s new conservative administration of Shinzo Abe has placed a priority on countering the perceived Chinese threat to the Senkakus since it won a landslide victory in last month’s general election. Soon after becoming prime minister, Abe ordered a review of Japan’s 2011-16 mid-term defence programme, apparently to speed up the acquisition of between one and three US drones.

Under Abe, a nationalist who wants a bigger international role for the armed forces, Japan is expected to increase defence spending for the first time in 11 years in 2013. The extra cash will be used to increase the number of military personnel and upgrade equipment. The country’s deputy foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday to discuss recent “incursions” of Chinese ships into the disputed territory.

China appears unbowed. “Japan has continued to ignore our warnings that their vessels and aircraft have infringed our sovereignty,” top-level marine surveillance official Sun Shuxian said in an interview posted to the State Oceanic Administration’s website, according to Reuters. “This behaviour may result in the further escalation of the situation at sea and has prompted China to pay great attention and vigilance.”

China announced late last month that the People’s Liberation Army was preparing to test-fly a domestically developed drone, which analysts say is likely a clone of the US’s carrier-based X-47B. “Key attack technologies will be tested,” reported the state-owned China Daily, without disclosing further details.

Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defence Review, said China might be attempting to develop drones that can perform reconnaissance missions as far away as Guam, where the US is building a military presence as part of its “Asia Pivot” strategy.

China unveiled eight new models in November at an annual air show on the southern coastal city Zhuhai, photographs of which appeared prominently in the state-owned press. Yet the images may better indicate China’s ambitions than its abilities, according to Chang: “We’ve seen these planes on the ground only — if they work or not, that’s difficult to explain.”

Japanese media reports said the defence ministry hopes to introduce Global Hawk unmanned aircraft near the disputed islands by 2015 at the earliest in an attempt to counter Beijing’s increasingly assertive naval activity in the area.

Chinese surveillance vessels have made repeated intrusions into Japanese waters since the government in Tokyo in effect nationalised the Senkakus in the summer, sparking riots in Chinese cities and damaging trade ties between Asia’s two biggest economies.

The need for Japan to improve its surveillance capability was underlined late last year when Japanese radar failed to pick up a low-flying Chinese aircraft as it flew over the islands.

The Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed defence ministry official as saying the drones would be used “to counter China’s growing assertiveness at sea, especially when it comes to the Senkaku islands”.

China’s defence budget has exploded over the past decade, from about £12.4bn in 2002 to almost £75bn in 2011, and its military spending could surpass the US’s by 2035. The country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet model called the Liaoning, completed its first sea trials in August.

A 2012 report by the Pentagon acknowledged long-standing rumours that China was developing a new generation of stealth drones, called Anjian, or Dark Sword, whose capabilities could surpass those of the US’s fleet.

China’s state media reported in October that the country would build 11 drone bases along the coastline by 2015. “Over disputed islands, such as the Diaoyu Islands, we do not lag behind in terms of the number of patrol vessels or the frequency of patrolling,” said Senior Colonel Du Wenlong, according to China Radio International. “The problem lies in our surveillance capabilities.”

China’s military is notoriously opaque, and analysts’ understanding of its drone programme is limited. “They certainly get a lot of mileage out of the fact that nobody knows what the hell they’re up to, and they’d take great care to protect that image,” said Ron Huisken, an expert on east Asian security at Australian National University.

He said the likelihood of a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese drones in coming years was “very high”.

US drones have also attracted the interest of the South Korean government as it seeks to beef up its ability to monitor North Korea, after last month’s successful launch of a rocket that many believe was a cover for a ballistic-missile test.

The US’s Global Hawk is piloted remotely by a crew of three and can fly continuously for up to 30 hours at a maximum height of about 60,000 ft. It has no attack capability.

The US deployed the advanced reconnaissance drone to monitor damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami on Japan’s north-east coast.

China ‘highly vigilant’ over Japanese fighters flying over disputed islands

AFP Thursday, Dec 27, 2012

BEIJING – China is “highly vigilant” about Japanese jet fighter flights over islands claimed by both countries and Japan must bear responsibility for any consequences, Chinese military and maritime officials said on Thursday.

The officials, speaking a day after a new hawkish Japanese prime minister took office, were responding to Japan sending jet fighters several times in the past two weeks to intercept Chinese patrol planes approaching airspace above the islands.

The situation in the volatile East China Sea region has severely strained relations between Beijing and Tokyo.

“We will decisively fulfil our tasks and missions while coordinating with relevant departments…so as to safeguard China’s maritime law enforcement activities and protect the country’s territorial integrity and maritime rights,” Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a news conference.

Japan’s Defence Ministry has acknowledged scrambling F-15 jets on several occasions in recent weeks to intercept Chinese marine surveillance planes approaching the islands, called the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku by Japan.

It says a Chinese aircraft breached what it considers Japanese airspace for the first time on Dec. 13.

The Japanese government administers the islands and purchased three of them from a private owner this past summer, sparking violent anti-Japanese protests across China.

New Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised not to yield in the dispute over the islands and boost defence spending to counter Beijing’s growing military clout.

“The Japanese side is using military aircraft to interfere with planes on normal patrol in undisputed Chinese airspace,”said Shi Qingfeng, director general of the Administration Office

of the State Oceanic Administration, the agency whose ships patrol disputed waters in the South and East China Seas.

“This is highly unreasonable conduct and the Japanese side is consciously trying to escalate the situation,” Shi said at a presentation for Chinese media and diplomats. “The Japanese side must assume responsibility for the consequences.”

China has been increasingly flexing its military and political influence in the western Pacific, forcefully asserting territorial claims while it builds up its military forces.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the South China Sea.

To China’s east, the island conflict with Japan has led to tense confrontations in the waters around the islands.

“China-Japan defence relations are an important and sensitive part of bilateral ties, and the Japanese side should face up to the difficulties and problems that currently exist,”Yang said.

 

http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20121227-392000.html

China surveillance ships enter waters near disputed islands: In Japanese territorial waters

TOKYO |         Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:35pm EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) – Two Chinese marine surveillance ships entered what Japan considers its territorial waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea on Monday, the Japanese Coast Guard said, a move bound to raise tension between Asia’s two largest economies.

China’s Xinhua news agency confirmed that two civilian surveillance ships were undertaking a “rights defense” patrol near the islands, citing the State Oceanic Administration, which controls the ships.

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply after Japan bought the islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, sparking anti-Japan protests in cities across China.

“In recent days, Japan has constantly provoked incidents concerning the Diaoyu islands issue, gravely violating China’s territorial sovereignty,” China’s Xinhua news agency said.

The ship patrols were intended to exercise China’s “administrative jurisdiction” over the islands, it said.

“Following the relevant laws of the People’s Republic of China, (the ships) again carried out a regular rights defense patrol in our territorial waters around the Diaoyu islands.”

The Japanese Coast Guard ordered the Chinese ships to move out of the area, but received no response, an official said.

Besides the two marine surveillance ships, there were nine Chinese fishery patrol ships near the islands as of 7:00 a.m. (2200 GMT on Sunday), but they were outside what Japan calls its territorial waters, the Coast Guard said.

Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by China’s memories of Japan’s military aggression in the 1930s and 1940s and present rivalry over regional influence and resources.

The islets are located near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge gas reserves.

The latest flare-up in tensions comes when both countries focus on domestic political pressures. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government faces an election in months, adding pressure on him not to look weak on China.

China’s Communist Party is preoccupied with a leadership turnover, with President Hu Jintao due to step down as party leader at a congress that could open as soon as next month.

Despite the long-running territorial disputes, their economic ties have grown closer over the years. China is Japan’s largest trading partner. In 2011, their bilateral trade grew 14.3 percent in value to a record $345 billion.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Antoni Slodkowski in Tokyo and Chris Buckley in Beijing; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Nick Macfie)