Japan stakes claim to disputed islands and threatens China with force

Japanese defence minister draws a ‘red line’ around disputed islands and warns China it will ‘resolutely’ defend its territory after standoffs with Chinese navy

  • Nobuo Kishi threatened to match China’s might over disputed Senkaku Islands
  • The uninhabited islets are strategically important for shipping and fishing
  • China is also warning the US to stay away, threatening to sail near Hawaii 
  • They sailed near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands but maintained international protocol 

Japan has staked its claim to the contested Senkaku Islands and will be defending them strongly against China amid escalating tensions in the region, the country’s defence minister has warned.

Nobuo Kishi said the territories, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, unquestionably belong to Japan and warned any provocation from Beijing will be fully matched.

His warnings come as a new three-way nuclear submarine pact between the US, UK and Australia aimed at combatting China was unveiled, to the delight of Japan and Taiwan.

Nobuo Kishi has drawn a red line around the the contested Senkaku Islands and will be defending them strongly against China

Kishi said the territories, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, unquestionably belong to Japan

Japan fears China’s increasingly-assertive navy, which now frequently conducts patrols that skirt its territorial waters including with its new aircraft carriers. 

Tokyo has beefed up its military presence around several disputed islands in response, raising fears of an accidental conflict. 

It has added state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets and converted warships to aircraft carriers, while building new destroyers, submarines and missiles.

Kishi told CNN: ‘Against Chinese action to Senkaku Islands and other parts of the East China Sea… we have to demonstrate that the government of Japan is resolutely defending our territory with the greater number of Japanese coast guard vessels than that of China. 

‘There is no territorial dispute relating to the Senkaku Islands between Japan and other countries.’

The uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, controlled by Japan but claimed by China, have been at the centre of a long-standing dispute that has plagued the relations between Beijing and Tokyo for years. 

They are located 1,200 miles southwest of Tokyo but only a third of that distance from Shanghai.

A Chinese Coast Guard ship cruises near the Senkaku Islands last month amid escalating tensions 

They are considered to have great economic and strategic values because they are close to important shipping lines and offering rich fishing grounds. 

China and Japan both claim sovereignty over the islets, which are under Japanese administration, preventing wide-scale exploration and development of oil and natural gas in the East China Sea.

During a row over the territories in 2012, it led to mass protests in China where Japanese cars, shops and restaurants were destroyed and the embassy targeted.

China has been just as ardent in its claims as Japan, saying last year: ‘The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are an inherent part of China’s territory, and it is our inherent right to carry out patrols and law enforcement activities in these waters.’

Japanese authorities say that this year alone, Chinese Coast Guard vessels have ventured into Japanese waters or 12 nautical miles of Japanese land more than 88 times.

Experts believe China intends to put forces in and around contested areas.   

They are also exerting force over Taiwan, which Beijing views as part of China even though it has never been governed by the CCP.

A P-3C patrol plane from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force flies over the disputed islets in 2011

China has regularly sent warplanes and ships towards Taiwan, which has in turn alerted its air defences, with US ships often patrolling the contested South China Sea.

Kishi said: ‘What could happen in Taiwan could likely be an issue for Japan, and in that case, Japan will have to take the necessary response to that situation.’    

As tensions simmer, China is also threatening to send its Navy into Hawaiian waters in the latest round of sabre rattling in the Pacific after Australia, the US and Britain announced a new naval alliance in the region. 

Four Chinese vessels have already been spotted sailing off the coast of Alaska this week in a display of naval power amid increasing tensions as a global nuclear submarine pact was signed to take on Beijing. 

A  Chinese guided-missile cruiser, guided-missile destroyer, general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel were spotted off the coast of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands during surveillance operations in the Bering Sea.

The provocation came as China’s state-run newspaper threatened to send warships to Hawaii and Guam in response to US moves in the South China Sea.

The Chinese flotilla sailed 42 miles off the coast of the Aleutian Islands near the coast of Alasksa

Four Chinese vessels have sailed off the coast of Alaska in a display of naval power amid increasing tensions

A guided-missile cruiser, guided-missile destroyer (pictured), general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel were spotted off the coast of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands

The Global Times’ editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, tweeted: ‘Hopefully when Chinese warships pass through the Caribbean Sea or show up near Hawaii and Guam one day, the US will uphold the same standard of freedom of navigation. That day will come soon.’ 

The US Navy responded to the tweet, saying they have ‘upheld the standards of freedom of navigation longer than the PLA navy has existed’.

They also pointed out that Chinese spy ships have frequently sailed past Hawaii and Guam in recent years.

They said: ‘The US Navy sails around the world in accordance with international law. 

‘All countries benefit from freedom of navigation in accordance with international law. 

‘Unfortunately, not all who benefit from freedom of navigation would extend that same freedom to others.’

The four warships, believed to include the 055 Nanchang destroyer were shadowed by the US Coast Guard

While the Chinese ships that sailed in the Bering Sea near Alaska were close to US waters, they followed international laws, US officials said.

The four warships, believed to include the 055 Nanchang destroyer were shadowed by the US Coast Guard cutters Bertholf and Kimball, which were shown in a series of images released on Monday of the incident.

The Bertholf crew made radio contact with the the Chinese flotilla which sailed 46 miles from the coast and said all interactions were consistent with international standards. 

Guard Pacific Area commander Vice Adm. Michael McAllister said in a statement: ‘Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security.

‘The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect US economic prosperity.’ 

The state-run Global Times cited Chinese analysts saying the move could be a  ‘countermeasure against US military provocations on China’s doorsteps in the name of freedom of navigation’.

US Coast Guard cutters Bertholf (pictured) and Kimball patrolled the seas as the Chinese flotilla came within 46 miles of the coast

The provocation came as China’s state-run newspaper threatened to send warships to Hawaii and Guam in response to US moves in the South China Sea

The US Navy responded to the tweet, listing a number of occasions Chinese spy ships have sailed close to US waters

The escalating tensions come amid a war of words over a new nuclear submarine pact between the UK, US and Australia aimed at combatting China – with Beijing denouncing their ‘Cold War mentality’.

The new alliance – called AUKUS – will see the US and UK cooperate to build Australia’s first ever nuclear submarine fleet which will comprise at least eight vessels. The trio will also share other military technologies such as artificial intelligence, cyber defence, quantum computing and long-range strike capabilities.

Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Scott Morrison were careful not to mention Beijing as they announced the new deal last night, but there can be little doubt that the alliance’s purpose is to counter China’s growing aggression – particularly in the South China Sea, which is criss-crossed by valuable trading routes and fertile fishing grounds.

Britain and America are to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of an unprecedented alliance known as the AUKUS pact to combat China’s naval dominance and will likely be the similar design as this Astute class submarine HMS Ambush (pictured)

China has inflamed tensions in the South China Sea in recent years by expanding its claimed territory, to the objection of its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific

China wasted little time responding to the deal, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denouncing the ‘exclusionary bloc’ which he said ‘seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race.’

But Beijing is far from the only upset party. Paris was also quick to react, with foreign minister Yves Le-Drian complaining it is a ‘stab in the back’ after a $90bn deal for France supply Australia with 12 conventionally-powered submarines was torn up. The French subs were not due for completion until mid-2030, while the new pact aims for a much faster delivery time.

The deal also side-lines New Zealand and Canada – who together with the UK, US and Australia make up the Cold War-era Five Eyes intelligence alliance. While AUKUS is not a straight replacement for Five Eyes, it is almost certain to reduce its importance and isolates Wellington and Ottawa from the group.

It seems the duo have been punished for failing to take a stronger stance against Beijing, just four months after New Zealand refused to sign a joint Five Eyes statement which criticised China’s aggression in the South China Sea, its crackdown in Hong Kong, threats to Taiwan and its treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s left-wing PM, has since admitted that she was not even consulted on the new pact – adding that Australia’s new subs will be banned from entering New Zealand waters under the country’s long-standing ‘nuclear free’ policy.

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