Japan bolsters Coast Guards to counter Chinese intrusion
Asia Pacific Focus

Japan bolsters Coast Guards to counter Chinese intrusion

Japan allows Coast Guard to strike first against Chinese vessels to counter intrusion in its waters

In the wake of Chinese law on maritime policy, Japan is scrambling to strengthen its Coast Guard. The Japanese Government on Friday permitted its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels trying to enter the territory around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. 

With this development, Japanese coast guards can strike first at any foreign vessel attempting to intrude on the Senkakus in order to protect their dominion in the East China Sea. 

In a tit-for-tat move, Japan appears to be abandoning pacifism to safeguard its territory around the Senkaku Islands, experts have analyzed. Even as Japan does not have an army, its self-defence force is among the most powerful forces in the world. 

Earlier this month, Beijing enacted legislation allowing its coast guard to use weapons against foreign vessels that China sees as illegally entering its jurisdiction.

Japan had expressed alarming concerns over the new law with the Defence Ministry issuing a warning that it could “shake the order based on international law.”

Over the last few months, several Chinese vessels loaded with firepower have entered the waters around the Japanese-administered (China-claimed) Senkaku Islands. Last year, Tokyo spotted Chinese ships near the Senkaku islands for a record 333 times, as per the Japan Coast Guard website.

Taking cognizance of the situation at the East China Sea, Japan gave free rein to its coast guard to shoot at foreign parties illegally entering its territory. Reportedly, coast guards of both countries regularly face off around the waters after Chinese vessels intrude in Japanese waters.

As per the Japanese Constitution, the coast guard is restricted from using weapons and military activities. Under a strict law, they are only allowed to fire weapons in case of emergency escape or self-defence. 

Responding to China’s new law, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had raised concerns that the security environment in the Indo-Pacific region has become severe. Amid China’s military buildup, Suga has also confirmed sweeping upgrades of Japan’s defense capabilities. 

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin in a press conference on February 8 said that Beijing is operating in its rights to stream through the waters. He further called the Senkaku islands “inherent Chinese territory,” as quoted by reports.

During a phone last month, US President Joe Biden assured PM Suga that Washington would follow its security treaty commitment with Japan in order to defend the islands under Tokyo’s administration. 

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“The two discussed the United States’ unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan under Article 5 of our security treaty, which includes the Senkaku Islands,” the White House said in a statement.

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