Senkaku unrest spurs new Coast Guard unit

A special Japan Coast Guard unit with nearly a dozen large patrol boats is now being structured to deal with surveillance of the Senkaku islands.

The Japan Coast Guard says the new unit will have 10 patrol boats, including a pair of  old helicopter-carrier vessels that will be refitted.  The command will have about 600 personnel and will be completed within three years.  Four of the patrol boats are already under construction, and funding for six others was included in a supplemental budget approved in January.

The new command was created after Chinese government ships began recurring intrusions into the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China calls the Diaoyus and claims as its territory.  Japan Coast Guard vessels, most of them based in Okinawa, have been chasing the Chinese ships away from the East China Sea waters.  A Japanese spokesman says “we see it as necessary to assign large-scale patrol boats specifically to cope with the situation in which Chinese government ships have become ever present in waters surrounding the islands.”

The new unit will be based on Ishigaki Island, about 175 kilometers southeast of the principal Senkaku islet.   The Japan Coast Guard currently has 900 personnel, but will see 500 more added next year and the other 100 crew members on the helicopter-carriers will join the unit in 2016.