Chinese in Senkakus scramble Japanese planners

The continuous intrusions by Chinese ships and aircraft into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in southwest Okinawa Prefecture has triggered Japanese bureaucrats into preparing long-term responses to those challenges to the Japan’s administrative control of the islands.

Chinese planes and ships have repeatedly violated Japanese waters since September, when Japan purchased three of the five islands, bringing total ownership now to four of the five.  China claims the islands, too, calling them the Diaoyu.  Chinese ships were in the waters or surrounding contiguous zone 92 days last year, including a flotilla of four ships headed by a large 3,000-ton-class vessel.

The Japan Coast Guard’s 11th Regional Headquarters in Naha is establishing a plan to create a special patrol unit of 12 ships exclusively for the Senkaku district.   Money for six of the ships is being sought from the fiscal 2012 extra budget.  Officials say the new patrol squadron won’t be put into service until April 2015 at the earliest.

That large Haijian 83 ship, the 3,000-ton-class vessel, was last in the South China Sea in 2009 when Chinese trawlers thought to be carrying paramilitary units were hindering operations of a U.S. Navy acoustic research vessel.  “We cannot rule out the possibility that China may use paramilitaries and trawlers to block operations of Japan Coast Guard ships,” says a Japanese official.

Aside from the ships, a Chinese Y-12 propeller plan ventured into the Japanese air defense ID zone near the Senkaku Islands January 5th, causing Japan to scramble its fighters.  This was the sixth time fighters have entered Japanese airspace since December 6th.  China’s coast is only 330 kilometers from Uotsuri, the largest of the five Senkaku islands.  That’s a distance Jian-10 fighter aircraft from China can cover in about ten minutes.

China’s response to the Japanese plans are that confrontation between the two nations’ air forces will happen if Japan continues to block patrols by Chinese aircraft.

Japan’s Defense Ministry says it is considering procuring Global Hawk surveillance aircraft to use in the East China Sea because its key radar facility on Miyako Island cannot detect the Chinese aircraft when they fly at very low altitudes.