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EDITORIAL | At Senkaku Islands, Fight China for the Intruder that It Is

China's aggressive acts around the Senkaku Islands and South China Sea are clear and blatant violations of international law and cannot be allowed to continue.



A Chinese Coast Guard ship fires water cannons at a Philippine government ship near Ayungin Reef in the South China Sea on December 10. (Photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, via AP/Kyodo)

China has repeatedly provoked Japan and the Philippines in the waters of the Senkaku Islands (Okinawa Prefecture) and the South China Sea. Beijing must cease its lawless behavior that disturbs the peace.

The number of days China Coast Guard vessels navigated in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands of Ishigaki City, Okinawa, reached a record high in 2023. Brazenly on  December 10, a China Coast Guard spokesperson also accused a Japanese fishing boat and several Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels of "illegal intrusion" into Senkaku waters.

China Coast Guard vessel that tracked Japanese fishing boats in the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands on April 10, 2022 (provided by Kazushi Kinjo.)

Moreover, without Japan's permission, a Chinese marine research vessel released maritime buoys within Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the Senkaku Islands.

The Senkaku Islands are sovereign Japanese territory and the waters around them belong to Japan. China is the intruder and must immediately depart from the area around the Senkakus. 

Senkaku Islands, Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture.

Harassment in the South China Sea

Meanwhile, in the South China Sea, a Philippine supply ship bound for a military base at Second Thomas Shoal was hit with water from a water cannon aboard a Chinese Coast Guard ship. The attack left it unable to navigate. Another Philippine supply ship was rammed by a Chinese ship manned by maritime militia. It is difficult to believe the Chinese version of the incident that had the Philippine ship ramming its vessel. 

Philippine Coast Guard released this photo of a Chinese Coast Guard ship collided with a Philippine ship near Ayungin Reef in the South China Sea. On December 10, 2023. (Courtesy of the Coast Guard via AP/Kyodo)

Civilian ships en route to resupply Philippine military garrisons on Lawak Island and other islands were also threatened by the Chinese Navy, forcing them to turn back. 

Since then, the Philippine Coast Guard has announced that China now has a fleet of more than 135 ships carrying maritime militia members in place near Whitsun Reef

In fact, China claims to have jurisdiction over virtually the entire South China Sea. It is reclaiming reefs and turning them into artificial islands, and even creating administrative divisions.

These actions are blatant violations of international law and are unacceptable. It should not be forgotten that China's claim to control the South China Sea was clearly denied in a ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague seven years ago. 

Chinese maritime militia ships operating near Whitsun Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on December 2. They are blocking access to shipping in Philippine waters. (Courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard/Reuters)

Cooperating Against Common Threats

In this way, Japan and the Philippines alike are facing a threat from China, which aims to unilaterally change the status quo through force.

Moreover, Taiwan lies between Japan and the Philippines. So, in the event of a Taiwan emergency, our two countries would not remain unaffected. 


It is hardly surprising therefore that at these issues came up in the November summit meeting between the leaders of Japan and the Philippines. Both leaders expressed their shared "serious concerns" about the situation in the East and South China Seas. As a result, our nations are actively promoting security cooperation. By adding the United States — treaty ally to both Japan and the Philippines ー and stressing trilateral solidarity, we will also be capable of deterring China's attempts at coercion. 

The Japan Coast Guard has also been assisting to improve the capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard. In particular, the JCG is helping their Philippine counterparts understand how to carry out operations per international law. 

A Chinese maritime buoy thought to be similar in appearance to the ones installed around the Senkaku Islands and in the South China Sea. (Website of the Institute of Oceanography, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

In September of this year, the Philippine Coast Guard removed buoys and other such objects installed by China because they were simply acting as impediments in the South China Sea

Meanwhile, it is certainly odd that Japan, which should be a role model, is allowing buoys laid by the Chinese in the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands to remain in place. 

The government should without the least hesitation promptly remove these provocative buoys. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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