The East China Sea has been an area of increasing tension between China and Japan for some time now. In recent weeks, the situation has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, with both countries staking territorial claims to the waters.
However, China’s foreign ministry has issued a strongly-worded statement in response to Japan’s territorial claims, accusing Tokyo of violating Chinese sovereignty.
China Refutes Japan’s Claim
On Thursday, the Chinese foreign ministry refuted Japan’s claim of territorial authority over East China Sea waters, dubbing it a “grave infringement” of Chinese sovereignty. Wang Wenbin, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, spoke during a regular press briefing, proclaiming that Chinese coast guard vessels acted per the law.
Wang’s comments came after the Japanese coast guard reported that Chinese vessels had violated Japanese territorial waters surrounding the disputed islets in the East China Sea. Both China and Japan lay claim to the region in question, which has been a point of contention between the two countries for an extended period.
China refers to the area as Diaoyu, while Japan calls it Senkaku. On Wednesday, China’s coast guard said they entered the waters near the contested islets in the East China Sea in response to Japanese ships entering Chinese territorial waters.
Gan Yu, a spokesperson for China Marine Police, declared in a statement that Chinese coast guard ships had entered the waters of the Diaoyu for a “normal rights protection patrol,” which he labeled a “typical operation.”
He additionally stated that this was a solid response to Japan’s incursion of a sailing boat and multiple patrol ships into Chinese territorial waters. Yet, he did not mention any particular episode.
At the end of January, China’s coast guard reported that the Shinsei Maru and four other Japanese vessels unlawfully entered the maritime boundaries of the Diaoyu islands. However, they were subsequently removed by Chinese coast guard vessels.
This Thursday, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is scheduled to have a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Tokyo – the first of its kind in over a decade. This gathering occurs when the US hopes the two countries can collaborate more closely to tackle the issues with China.
Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Control
The islands in question are located around the edge of the continental shelf and are seen as strategically important to both countries. China and Japan have both claimed sovereignty over the islands, with Tokyo arguing that they have been part of Japan since 1895.
Beijing, however, claims that Japan illegally seized them during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The dispute could escalate into a full-blown conflict, especially with Japan’s recent move to claim territorial waters in the East China Sea.
China’s response shows that it is unwilling to back down on this issue, and how Japan will respond remains to be seen. The dispute over the East China Sea is one of many issues that have strained the relationship between China and Japan in recent years.
While both countries are determined to maintain a peaceful relationship, how this latest development will play out will test this determination.