The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) rescued several Chinese fishermen early Thursday when their ship sank after a collision.
A JCG patrol ship picked up an SOS signal around 5:30 a.m. JST from the 106,726-ton freighter Anangel Courage. The patrol ship and a JCG plane set out for the location of the distress call. The freighter was spotted 67 kilometers (41.6 miles) from Uotsori Island, an island in the Senkakus, a collection of uninhabited islands administered by Japan but claimed by China.
The JCG patrol ship pulled six Chinese fishermen from the water. Eight members of the Chinese crew, along with their ship, are still missing. The Chinese fishing trawler (No. 05891) reportedly sank shortly after a collision with a Greek freighter near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Japan informed relevant Chinese authorities of the incident, and Beijing expressed its gratitude. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying added, “We hope that the relevant maritime departments will continue to properly handle the incident in a cooperative attitude.” Chinese and Japanese coast guard units are still searching for the missing fishermen.
While Beijing appreciated the rescue, that call was almost certainly bitter sweet; this act of kindness comes in the middle of an escalating territorial feud between China and Japan.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China’s maritime claims and nine-dashed line. Beijing immediately rejected the ruling, and blamed Japan for stirring up trouble in the region by encouraging other regional actors to put pressure on China to accept the ruling.
China sent hundreds of fishing ships accompanied by a number of Chinese coast guard vessels into disputed waters around the Senkaku Islands in early August. This incident triggered numerous protests and criticisms from Tokyo. Responding to the recent Chinese incursions into waters administered by Japan, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, “The situation surrounding the Japan-China relationship is significantly deteriorating.”
Hua Chunying responded, “China’s position on the issue of Diaoyu Dao is clear and consistent, that is, Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands is an inherent part of China’s territory, and China has indisputable sovereignty over them and the adjacent waters.” Hua encouraged Japan not to escalate the situation.
On Wednesday, Japan issued a nine-page report detailing and criticizing Chinese intrusions into Japanese-controlled waters. That same day, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said, “We are concerned about the increase of Chinese coast guard vessels in the vicinity of the islands. We oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands.”
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