230 Chinese Fishing Boats Fish in Disputed Waters with JapanPosted: August 7, 2016
It is fishing season now. China sends a fishing fleet of 232 boats escorted by coastguard ships to the areas around the disputed Diaoyu Islands (known as Senkaku in Japan).
SCMP says in its report “Japan protests after Chinese ships approach East China Sea islands”, “Japan issued a new protest to Beijing on Saturday after Chinese coastguard ships and about 230 fishing vessels sailed close to what Tokyo considers its territorial waters around disputed islets in the East China Sea, Japan’s foreign ministry said.”
Such protest repeats every year since 2012 when China sent a fishing fleet of 1,000 boats to fish in the disputed waters (see my post “Over 1,000 Chinese Fishing Boats to Fish at Disputed Waters” on September 4, 2012).
The number of boats is smaller now, but the boats are larger as China has subsidized fishermen to substitute larger ones for smaller ones as larger ones are able to deal with Japanese coastguard ships.
As there are rich fish resources in the disputed waters, the catch is satisfactory, but the large-scale fishing operation is political as China subsidized the fuel costs for all the fishing boats going there in order to maintain substantial Chinese presence in the disputed waters.
In addition, China has been building large coastguard ships to deal with Japanese, Philippine and Vietnamese coast guards. Some of Chinese coastguards are so large as to have displacement of 10,000 tons.
Not only coast guards but Chinese warships and warplanes frequently patrol the areas around the disputed Diaoyu Islands (see my post “Chinese warships to become common feature around Diaoyus” on December 12, 2012).
The problem for Japan is that since the US returned the administration of the Diaoyus, it remained the sole administrator of the islands until 2012 when disputes over the sovereignty over the islands occurred. China has conducted unlimited fishing in the disputed areas and frequent patrols there with coastguard and naval ships and aircrafts.
China and Japan are now de facto joint administrators of the islands similar to the situation of the Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) before the Scarborough standoff when both Chinese and Philippine fishermen fished in the area around and the lagoon inside the shoal.
Japan cannot prohibit Chinese fishermen from fishing there as that will give rise to a standoff similar to Scarborough standoff. The US will tell Japan to retreat as it does not want to fight a war with China for a few rocks.
Japan can do nothing but protests. However, it shall regard itself lucky as China has only set up an air defense identification zone that includes the disputed islands in its disputes with Japan. It does not conduct regular combat patrol of the areas around the Diaoyus.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2000070/japan-protests-after-chinese-ships-approach-east-china.