Tensions over Senkakus keep heating up

Japanese officials briefly went to heightened status Monday following the entry of three Chinese maritime surveillance ships into Japanese territorial waters.

The 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters based in Naha says the incident near the Senkaku Islands took place about 7 a.m. The incursion by the three vessels lasted about 15 minutes.

China also insists that the U.S. has “undeniable historical responsibility” in its dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands. The comments were attributed to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei holding a regular news conference Monday. He added、 “The U.S. comments ignore facts and confuse truth with untruth. China is strongly displeased and firmly opposed to it.”  His comments came in reference to the repeated statement by the US. Administration that acknowledges that the islands are under Japanese administration without taking a stance on whose territory they are.

Tensions were ratcheted up further when Japanese officials threatened to fire warning shots at Chinese aircraft violating its air space over the islands.  The officials made the comments after Chinese fighters scrambled Japanese warplanes near the Senkaku Islands.

That incident marked the first time that the Chinese media has publicly reported that its fighter planes had scrambled because of Japanese fighters in the area.

Concerns that the conflict might get out f hand because of someone’s miscalculation have increased recently after the new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he and his cabinet are considering using tracer shots to respond to the Chinese incursions.

Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said last week when asked about possible use of tracer shots that, “We have measures ready that we can use and are consistent with international standards.”  At the same time, he confirmed that no tracer shots were fired last week.

At the same time some observers in China are speculating the Japanese have mentioned resorting to using tracer shots to gauge how strongly the Chinese would respond.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated Friday the US. stance that, while the U.S. does not take a position of the ownership of the islands, it opposes any unilateral action that would change the status quo.

That in turn prompted the Chinese Foreign Ministry to accuse the U.S. of “ignoring the facts.”