CrisisWatch China/Japan

Unchanged Situation

China maintained naval activity in East China Sea amid tensions with Japan over disputed islands, while Tokyo and U.S. strengthened alliance with series of defence agreements. 

Beijing continued maritime presence. As of 25 April, Japan reported 98 Chinese vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone, while nine vessels were detected within Japan’s territorial sea, representing slight increase from March. Chinese coast guard ships 5-6 April entered Japan’s territorial sea off disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan claims as its territory, in East China Sea and attempted to approach Japanese fishing boat. Japanese coast guard 12 April requested four Chinese coast guard vessels to leave “our territorial waters” in disputed area off Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Japan 25 April detected one Chinese coast guard vessel that entered Japanese territorial waters off coast of Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. China’s coast guard 28 April claimed it took law enforcement measures against inspection mission of Japanese lawmakers near Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – reportedly marking first such mission since 2013. Japan 2 April detected Chinese military ships and surveillance aircraft active in waters between Taiwan and Japan, as well as Russian surveillance ship off Japanese coast.

U.S. and Japan struck agreements to boost alliance. U.S. President Biden 10 April hosted Japanese PM Fumio Kishida for official visit and state dinner, as leaders announced scores of agreements and initiatives for defence cooperation and to counter perceived threats from China in East and South China Seas, which Biden described as “most significant upgrade in our alliance since it was first established”; notably, pair agreed new joint military command structure in Japan, new air missile defence network with Australia, and Japanese participation in NASA moon missions, reflecting Japan’s growing international role following changes to its pacifist constitution.

Japan, U.S. and South Korea held joint exercises. Japan, U.S. and South Korea 11-12 April conducted trilateral maritime exercise in East China Sea, including anti-submarine warfare drills and search and rescue operations, in bid to enhance deterrence vis-à-vis China and North Korea (see Korean Peninsula). 

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