Senkaku Islands on nearly everybody’s mind
A Chinese aircraft has intruded into Japanese airspace over the Senkaku Islands in southwestern Okinawa Prefecture, raising concerns from the national government and the Prefecture.
Air Self Defense Forces scrambled F-15 jets to the disputed islands, which China claims but Japan administers, after the Y-12 twin turboprop surveillance aircraft ventured close to the islands. Eight Japanese jets plus an E2C early warning aircraft gave pursuit and warned the plane off. The Japan Coast Guard says one of its regular patrols first spotted the plane.
The Defense Ministry says it was the first incursion since monitoring began in 1958, and it came as ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the start of the Nanjing Massacre, when Japanese Imperial Army troops embarked on a spree of violence and killing in the then-Chinese capital.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai lodged a protest with the Chinese envoy, who was summoned to the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura called the incident “extremely deplorable” despite earlier warnings, and after Chinese surveillance vessels intruded into Japanese waters earlier that same day.
Shinzo Abe, who takes the reins as Prime Minister less than a week from now following a resounding election victory, says there will be no compromise on the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. “The Senkaku Islands are Japan’s inherent territory,” he says of the archipelago islands China calls the Diaoyus. “Japan owns and controls the islands…under international law. There is no room for negotiation on this point.”
Still, Abe was conciliatory by saying he wants to “deepen dialogue with China. We need to have wisdom not to turn political issues into economic issues.” Abe has hinted at sending Japanese vessels to patrol the disputed islands, but slowed the rhetoric a bit with declarations that Sino-Japanese relations are “one of the most important bilateral relationships,” and adding “China is an indispensable country for the Japanese economy to keep growing.”
Abe had said before the election he’d re-commission old Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels and assign them to the Japan Coast Guard, recalling ex-SDF troops to man them.