Japan To Increase Reconnaissance Patrols Near Disputed Islands

JCG Planning To Increase Aerial Surveillance By 20%


The Yomiuri Shimbun

9:05 pm, December 29, 2014

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Japan Coast Guard plans to increase aerial patrols by 20 percent from next fiscal year to better monitor Chinese intrusions into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and the illegal collection of coral off the Ogasawara Islands.

The patrols will be mainly carried out over the nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). As the scale of the aerial patrols has been kept at virtually the same level in recent years, a JCG official said, “The planned scale of the increase is unprecedented.”

The JCG owns 27 aircraft, which it uses to monitor Japan’s territorial waters and for other purposes. In next fiscal year’s budget, the JCG is seeking increases in spending for fuel and maintenance costs to reinforce its patrols.

In the afternoon of Oct. 19, a JCG plane spotted the Chinese vessel Tan Bao Hao about 140 kilometers south of Miyakojima island in Okinawa Prefecture, which is in Japan’s EEZ. What appeared to be a wire was hanging in the sea from the vessel.

The JCG assumed that a marine research device was attached to the wire. Conducting marine research is not permitted inside Japan’s EEZ unless Japanese authorities grant permission.

The JCG plane radioed the Chinese vessel to stop its activity, but the Tan Bao Hao failed to respond and left the area soon afterward.

The size of Japan’s territorial waters and EEZ is more than 10 times larger than the nation’s total land area. It is impossible to monitor this vast sea area by ship, so information from aircraft is essential to improve the effectiveness of the patrols.

Provocative actions by Chinese vessels are continuing, making aerial surveillance all the more important.

According to the JCG, intrusions into Japanese territorial waters by Chinese fishing boats have increased dramatically in areas around the Senkaku Islands.

There were 39 intrusions in 2012 and 88 in 2013, but the number surged to 208 this year.

In waters near the Senkaku Islands, China Coast Guard vessels have intruded into Japanese territorial waters about three times a month.

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From 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters website

A Gulfstream V plane of the Japan Coast Guard

Chinese vessels have also been spotted sailing in Japan’s contiguous zones — zones about 22 kilometers wide outside the nation’s territorial waters. This kind of activity has occurred about 20 days a month since Japan nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands in 2012.

“On the Chinese side, government vessels and fishing boats have teamed up to secure [China’s] maritime interests,” a senior JCG official said.

In waters near the Ogasawara Islands, a large number of vessels believed to be Chinese fishing boats has been seen since mid-September illegally collecting coral. At one point, there were more than 200 vessels.

Only a few fishing boats have been seen in the area recently. But a JCG official said: “It’s possible a huge number of fishing boats will turn up again. We can’t lower our vigilance.”

Like the Tan Bao Hao, Chinese marine research vessels appear to be increasingly active in Japan’s EEZ.

Until around 2010, only a few Chinese vessels were confirmed by the JCG to have suspended marine research devices in the sea. Last year, the number surged to 14 cases, while 14 cases have already been confirmed this year.

Such activities have been especially common in sea areas near Okinawa Prefecture. From Dec. 23 to Dec. 25, a JCG patrol vessel confirmed that the Hai Da Hao, a Chinese marine research vessel, had dropped something into the sea inside Japan’s EEZ near the Senkaku Islands.

The JCG demanded that the vessel cease its activities.

According to the JCG, it is possible Chinese marine research vessels are conducting research on the ocean floor topography, which may assist submarine activities, or investigating resources on the sea bottom


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