The Japan Coast Guard and a Chinese monitoring ship exchanged words near the Senkaku Islands on Sept. 18, as tensions increased over reports that hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels were nearing the disputed isles.
A Japan Coast Guard patrol boat spotted the Yuzheng 35001 just outside Japanese territorial waters in the East China Sea about 43 kilometers north-northwest of Uotsurishima, the largest of the five uninhabited islands, around 6:50 a.m., coast guard officials said.
The patrol boat warned the Yuzheng 35001 not to enter Japanese territorial waters. But the Chinese ship said the islands, which Chinese call Diaoyu, are an integral part of China and that it was conducting a legitimate duty, coast guard officials said.
The Yuzheng 35001 repeatedly entered and left the contiguous zone. It was within the zone as of 12:16 p.m.
The Chinese ship was believed to have been accompanying a reported 1,000 fishing boats heading to the Senkaku Islands. But Japan Coast Guard officials said only a few Chinese fishing boats were seen in the area.
In addition to the coast guard ships, four vessels from Japan’s Fisheries Agency are conducting patrols around the islands.
The Japan Coast Guard has given top priority to keeping Chinese fishing boats away from the Senkaku Islands.
“We cannot tell what action the Chinese side will take, but we want to prevent a landing by any means,” a senior coast guard official said.
The Japan Coast Guard has informed regional coast guard headquarters that they may be asked to send patrol boats to the Senkaku Islands.
Anti-Japan protests erupted in cities around China after the Japanese government earlier this month bought three of the islands from a private landowner in Saitama Prefecture. Given the rising anti-Japanese sentiment among Chinese, some fishing boats may ignore the coast guard’s warnings, and Japanese patrol vessels may find themselves in a tense standoff with Chinese fishing monitoring ships.
The Japan Coast Guard plans to chase away Chinese fishing boats operating in Japanese territorial waters because Japanese law prohibits foreign fishermen from catching fish in Japanese sea.
However, Chinese fishermen are allowed to operate outside Japanese territorial waters under a bilateral fishing agreement, according to Fisheries Agency officials.
The Japan Coast Guard also confirmed that two Japanese citizens landed on Uotsurishima around 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 18 and later left the island.
The individuals apparently swam to the island from the No. 8 Michitake Maru, a fishing boat that left Ishigakijima island, according to police and coast guard officials.
The Senkaku Islands belong to the city of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.
The chief of a fisheries cooperative in Ishigaki asked Japan and China to prevent the waters around the Senkaku Islands from becoming a sea of dispute.
He also blamed the two countries for creating the impression that Chinese fishing boats were going to assault the Senkaku Islands by repeatedly showing images of fleets leaving China’s Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.
“Most ships are just going fishing because the fishing ban was lifted,” he said. “It is what they are doing every year.”
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