CrisisWatch China/Japan

Unchanged Situation

Amid Chinese maritime presence in East China Sea, Japan lodged protests and resorted to new hotline; G7 expressed concern over region, while Tokyo strengthened defence ties to Europe.

Japan protested and used military hotline amid China’s maritime activity. As of 28 May, Japan spotted 98 Chinese vessels in its contiguous zone and 12 ships inside its territorial sea. Notably, Japan 11 May lodged diplomatic protests with Beijing over Chinese intrusions around Japan-controlled and disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in East China Sea, as two Chinese coast guard ships passed within 12-mile limit and remained in waters for some 35 hours in 13th such incident in 2023; Chinese navy flotilla same day sailed through Miyako Strait and waters between Japan’s Okinawa Islands. Japan 16 May for first time used military hotline established with China in March to discuss East China Sea. Tokyo 8 May announced that Japanese forces will deploy surface-to-air guided PAC-3 missiles at its base on Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture, citing North Korean ballistic missile threats (see Korean Peninsula); given proximity to Taiwan, however, observers questioned if deployment is also aimed at countering threat of China’s missiles.

G7 voiced concerns over East China Sea, Japan courted ties with NATO and UK. During G7 summit in Japan, leaders in joint communique 20 May said they “remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas” and “strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion.” After reports early month revealed NATO intended to open liaison office in Japan and pair will upgrade cooperation ahead of NATO summit in July, China 4 May said alliance’s “eastward foray” will “inevitably undermine regional peace and stability”. UK and Japan 18 May signed “Hiroshima Accord”, described as “enhanced global strategic partnership” aimed at strengthening cooperation in broad range of areas, including defence.

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