Amid the expanding threat from the respiratory-like ailment caused by the novel coronavirus, China has been engaging in acts designed to provoke Japan, Taiwan, and others over the disputed Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, just north of the Island of Ishigakijima in the East China Sea.
Above all, this is a time when Beijing must squarely face up to its responsibility for the coronavirus crisis by coordinating closely with the rest of the world. So what lies behind its aggressive acts?
China’s Duplicitous Behavior
Four vessels of the Chinese Coast Guard have been spotted recently, lingering in the contiguous waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. According to the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG), their presence continued for 11 consecutive days.
One of the Chinese vessels was found to have something like a cannon mounted on it, JCG officials said. JCG vessels have been warning the Chinese vessels against approaching Japan’s territorial waters and are keeping them under continued surveillance.
On February 9, four Xian H-6 bombers belonging to China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAF) were seen flying over the Miyako Strait between the main island of Okinawa and Miyakojima Island. They flew from the Pacific Ocean south of the Sakishima chain of islands in Okinawa Prefecture, before turning to fly on to the Chinese continent, according to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. This prompted the JASDF to scramble its fighters.
It was learned that the H-6 bombers were loaded with cruise missiles capable of conducting air-to-ground attacks, the JASDF command said, noting Okinawa Prefecture is obviously within the range of bombardment by the long-range Chinese aircraft.
Chinese Aggression Also Targets Taiwan
China has also carried out blatant provocations against Taiwan. On February 9 and 10, PLAF aircraft, including H-6 bombers and J-11 fighters, made flights circling around the airspace above Taiwan. On February 10, a Chinese escort plane accompanying the bombers dared to cut across the China-Taiwan median line over the Taiwan Strait, temporarily intruding into Taiwan’s airspace.
The Mainland Affairs Council of Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, which is tasked with the oversight of relations with Beijing, promptly condemned China, stressing that its belligerent neighbor would do better to focus on fighting the looming novel coronavirus epidemic. In her post on Facebook, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen pointed to China’s military movements amid the coronavirus outbreak, calling the aggressive behavior “meaningless and inappropriate as well.”
Provocative military actions are unforgivable under any circumstances. But provocations at the present time are all the more inappropriate when international cooperation to tackle the coronavirus has been acutely called for. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi would be better advised to come out with warnings against China’s aggressive acts in line with those of Taiwan.
Human Victims Deserve Our Care
The figures of victims and fatalities from the novel coronavirus have continued to expand in China. In the meantime, Japan and other countries have been extending a helping hand to the affected Chinese people.
Posters in Chinese can be found at drugstores and other retailers in Japan, encouraging the Chinese public with words such as “Hang tough, Wuhan!” — the Chinese city that is the epicenter of the outbreak.
At the same time, medical relief supplies, including face masks and protective clothing, have been sent to China from both the private and public sectors of Japan. The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson has expressed thanks for the assistance from Japan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has defined his country’s efforts at prevention and control of the new coronavirus as a “people’s war,” while expressing a sense of crisis about the situation.
The acts of the Chinese military and the CCG in the East China Sea can contribute nothing positive to the more important international cooperation in the battle against the novel coronavirus. President Xi should issue a directive immediately suspending the provocations.
(Click here to read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun