Japan is preparing for a showdown with Chinese fishermen by deploying upgraded patrol ships with enhanced capabilities.
Nine Japanese patrol boats with reinforced hulls to withstand a hit from a fishing vessel and improved monitoring equipment will bolster Japan’s coast guard presence in Japanese-controlled waters in the East China Sea, UPI reports. The new patrol vessels will be deployed between this November and in 2018.
Japan also has plans for a heavy 6,500-ton patrol boat capable of carrying a helicopter.
Additionally, by March 2019, the number of units patrolling the Senkaku Islands will be increased to 200 from the current 55.
The Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, are uninhabited territories in the East China Sea claimed by China but administered by Japan and covered by a long-standing U.S.-Japanese security agreement.
Chinese fishing ships, numbering some 230, sailed through disputed waters in early August, according to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Chinese fishing vessels also illegally occupy Japanese fishing areas on a regular basis, it is reported.
Chinese fishing vessels appear to play an important role in China’s maritime strategy.
In the South China Sea, fishing trawlers operate as part of China’s maritime militia, what Naval War College professor Dr. Andrew Erickson calls “China’s third sea force.” These units are paramilitary units that hide behind the façade of civilian operations and engage in “grey zone aggression.”
These units are often deployed on the front lines in the South China Sea, and there is reason to believe that China may be employing a similar strategy in the East China Sea.
Outside of strategic expansion, there is also the problem of illegal fishing and general violations of maritime law.
Two Chinese fishing vessels flagged for illegal fishing rammed and sank a speed boat belonging to the Incheon Coast Guard Friday. The incident angered the South Koreans, who called the attack “attempted murder.”
“South Korea will keep a close eye on the matter as the root of the problem derives from illegal fishing by the Chinese.”
In response to the actions of Chinese fishing vessels, Japan and other nations are strengthening their respective maritime defense capabilities.
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