Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012
Four Chinese patrol vessels were spotted Wednesday night sailing in the contiguous zone surrounding Japan's territorial waters around the just nationalized Senkaku Islands, according to the Japan Coast Guard.
Even though the vessels did not show any signs of entering Japan's territorial waters in the East China Sea as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, the coast guard was on alert after media reports said an armada of 1,000 Chinese fishing boats was on its way to the area, it said.
The coast guard said a few purse seine fishing boats were seen near the Japan-administered islands, but not an armada.
On Tuesday, 12 Chinese surveillance vessels entered Japan's contiguous zone and three of them sailed into Japanese territorial waters. The Chinese vessels expected to remain in the area for some time.
"I wonder what China intends, or if they are just trying to wait and see what we do first?" a coast guard official mused.
Meanwhile, the Okinawa Prefectural Police questioned two Japanese men who landed on one of the disputed islands on Tuesday. No one, including Japanese nationals, is allowed to step foot on the Senkakus without consent from Japanese authorities, although several Japanese who did so last month were not arrested.
Fisheries minister Akira Gunji dismissed public concern the same day that a Chinese fishing boat armada is headed toward the Senkakus.
"Chinese fishing vessels are unlikely to swarm" into the waters near the islands in the absence of favorable fishing conditions, he said.
The government's top spokesman assured the public Wednesday by saying that the Chinese patrol vessels will be closely watched.
"We will do our best to gather relevant information and maintain surveillance through the Japan Coast Guard and other related government agencies," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference.
The Senkaku Islands are claimed by China and Taiwan as the Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.