CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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.
China continued maritime presence in Japan’s territorial waters as sides held talks in Tokyo, where both aired grievances and pledged to establish hotline.
Chinese maritime presence continued, Japan protested China’s satellite launch. As of 27 April, Japan detected 103 Chinese vessels inside Japan’s contiguous zone during month, while 11 vessels were detected within Japan’s territorial sea. Japan 19 April protested China’s “extremely regrettable” actions to launch weather satellite despite risk of falling debris in East China Sea and for announcing no-fly zones in area.
Tokyo and Beijing held maritime talks. Japan and China 10 April held first in-person maritime talks in Japanese capital Tokyo since 2019. Japan underlined importance of peace in Taiwan Strait, urged Beijing to stop its coastguard ships entering Japanese waters, expressed concerns about Beijing’s military activity near Japan and its coordination with Russia, and protested against China’s construction of two new structures in East China Sea discovered last year. For their part, Chinese officials criticised Japan’s recent “negative moves” regarding East and South China Seas, disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and Taiwan Strait and demanded Tokyo stop “all words and deeds” that violate China’s territorial sovereignty, undermine its maritime rights and interests, and meddle in Taiwan issue. In positive step, China and Japan made progress on setting up hotline to resolve maritime disputes; China pledged to speed up its use while Japanese media reports suggested hotline could begin operating as early as spring this year.
In other important developments. In joint statement, G7 18 April expressed concerns over situation of East and South China seas, and urged China to abstain from threats, coercion, intimidation, or use of force; China reacted harshly, accusing G7 of interfering in its internal affairs and issued demarche to Japan, which hosted G7 summit.
China continued maritime presence in Japan’s territorial waters, while Tokyo bolstered its defence posture and enhanced cooperation with allies and partners.
Chinese maritime presence continued, including near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. As of 23 March, Japan detected 85 Chinese vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone, with eight vessels venturing inside Japan’s territorial sea 15-17 March. Japan 18 March spotted two Chinese Coast Guard vessels around Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, lingering for 16 hours; Tokyo condemned Beijing for violating waters around islands, while China described it as routine to safeguard its sovereignty. Russia 3 March claimed it fired Kalibr cruise missile during submarine drill in Sea of Japan that struck land target over 1,000km away.
Japan strengthened defence posture, bolstering Okinawa base. Japan 16 March deployed Ground Self-Defense Force units, including missile squads, to newly established garrison at Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, near Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and Taiwan. Okinawa authorities 17 March conducted first-ever tabletop exercise on evacuating more than 100,000 people from Japanese islands near Taiwan. Meanwhile, Tokyo 4 March announced plan to introduce new homegrown missile capable of intercepting ballistic missiles and hypersonic glide weapons by 2027. Media reports early March suggested Japan was considering sending drones instead of manned jets to intercept foreign aircraft approaching its sovereign airspace.
Japan continued alliance-building efforts, held summit with South Korea. FMs of “Quad” (U.S., Australia, India and Japan) 3 March pledged to address maritime challenges in South and East China Seas. U.S., Canada, India, Japan and South Korea 16 March staged “Sea Dragon” joint anti-submarine exercises. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol 16-17 March visited Japan for bilateral summit, bringing curtain down on extended period of bilateral friction in recent years; Japanese PM Kishida called it “major step towards normalizing relations” (see Korean Peninsula). German Chancellor Olaf Scholz 18 March visited Japanese capital Tokyo aiming to strengthen economic and defence ties. Japan’s PM Fumino Kishida 20 March visited India to coordinate Japan’s G7 presidency and India’s G20 presidency; pair 17 Feb-2 March conducted joint exercises in Japan’s Shiga region.
China continued military activity in Japan’s territorial waters, while Tokyo and Beijing held high-level security talks.
China continued maritime activity in region amid Japan-U.S. military drills. As of 26 Feb, Japanese Coast Guard had spotted 86 Chinese vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone. Notably, Chinese Navy survey vessel 12 Feb crossed into Japanese territorial waters from south west of Yakushima island, marking seventh entry by such a ship into seas off Kagoshima city since Nov 2021, with last sighting in Dec 2022. Tokyo 14 Feb said three unidentified flying objects spotted over its territory in Nov 2019, June 2020 and Sept 2021 are “strongly suspected” to have been Chinese spy balloons. Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marine Corps 16 Feb held large-scale joint drills in south-western Japan, simulating defending and recapturing small islands, until 12 March.
Tokyo and Beijing discussed contested islands and Taiwan. In their first conversation, recently appointed Chinese FM Qin Gang and Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi 2 Feb discussed East China Sea and Taiwan Strait; Qin expressed Beijing’s hopes Japan can stop “right-wing forces” from provoking disputes over contested islands, while Hayashi noted Japanese public opinion regarding China is “extremely severe” and also expressed “serious concern” about China’s increasing military activity near Japan and Taiwan; pair agreed to continue close communication “at all levels”. Sides 22 Feb held first high-level security talks in four years in Japanese capital Tokyo; China cited Japanese military build-up as worry, while Japan highlighted concerns about disputed islands, China’s ties to Russia and Chinese surveillance balloons.
China continued military activity around Japan and disputed islands, while Tokyo deepened defence ties with West and India.
China continued maritime activity in region. As of 19 Jan, Japanese Coast Guard spotted 94 Chinese vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone, four of them within territorial waters. Four Chinese Coast Guard ships 10 Jan sailed around disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in first intrusion into Japanese waters around East China Sea islands this year; incursion followed 72-hour incursion 22-25 Dec off Senkaku/Diaoyu, marking longest since 2012.
Japan reinforced outlying islands. Media reports 10 Jan confirmed Japan’s plan to deploy missile unit on Japan’s Yonaguni Island – located just 110km from Taiwan near Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – in order to expand military base; Chinese missiles fell near Yonaguni last Aug as China conducted exercises following then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. As part of efforts to reinforce south-western islands, Japan will also begin construction of military base on Japan’s Mageshima Island.
Tokyo sought to deepen ties with allies and partners. Japanese PM Kishida 9-15 Jan embarked on tour to fellow G7 countries (U.S., UK, France, Italy and Canada); notably, Kishida and U.S. President Biden reiterated commitment to bolster U.S.-Japan defence alliance amid rising security challenges in Asia and, related to Taiwan, emphasised goal to push for integrated deterrence with tighter alliance; Japan due to acquire hundreds of U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles to strengthen counterstrike capabilities. In first such deal inked with European partner, Japan and UK 11 Jan signed landmark defence pact, allowing respective forces to be deployed to other’s country for training, joint exercises and disaster relief activities. Japan and Italy 11 Jan upgraded their relationship to “strategic partnership”. Japan and India 16 Jan commenced first-ever joint fighter aircraft exercise. Kishida and NATO sec gen 31 Jan pledged to deepen ties, as latter accused Beijing of “bullying its neighbours and threatening Taiwan”.
China continued military activity around disputed islands amid joint drills with Russia, while Japan unveiled first national security strategy in almost decade.
China and Russia continued joint military drills in region. After Russia’s Tu-95 bombers and Chinese H-6K bombers late Nov flew over Sea of Japan and East China Sea during eight-hour joint military drill, China and Russia 21-27 Dec held joint naval exercises dubbed “Maritime Cooperation 2022”; Japanese defence ministry 18 Dec said at least four large Chinese warships, including two Type 055 destroyers, were spotted during exercise in East China Sea. China Coast Guard vessels 21 Dec patrolled near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, according to official statement from China.
Japan labelled China its pre-eminent security challenge in new strategy. Japan 16 Dec released its first National Security Strategy in nine years, which dubbed China as country’s “greatest strategic challenge”; key policies include increasing defence spending by total of 43 trillion yen ($313 billion) over five years, which will bring spending to 2% of annual GDP by 2027; strategy signalled clear move away from Japan’s post-war pacifism.
China continued maritime activity around disputed islands, while Tokyo and Beijing struck five-point agreement aimed at strengthening cooperation.
China continued maritime activity as Japan hosted joint naval drills. As of 29 Nov, 108 Chinese Coast Guard vessels were detected in Japan’s contiguous zone over 27 days, including eight that entered Japan’s territorial waters. Japan hosted ten-day Malabar Exercise with “Quad” countries – U.S., Australia and India – that 10 Nov commenced off Yokosuka Island in East China Sea. Japanese media 9 Nov reported that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and Coast Guard will conduct joint drill simulating armed attack on disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea for first time before end of fiscal year.
Japan and China agreed five-point consensus following first face-to-face leaders’ meeting. Japan’s PM Fumio Kishida and China’s President Xi Jinping 17 Nov met for first time on sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Thailand’s capital Bangkok and agreed five-point consensus, which includes provisions to build mutual trust, work on high-level economic dialogue, strengthen dialogue and communication between defence and maritime departments (including early launch of direct telephone line) and commit to jointly shoulder responsibility for maintaining international and regional peace and prosperity; during meeting, Kishida expressed concern over China’s intrusions into Japanese waters around Senkaku Islands and recent ballistic missile launches around Taiwan.
Chinese vessels and aircraft continued incursions into Japanese waters and airspace, while U.S. and Japan held joint exercises.
China maintained naval and aerial incursions. As of 29 Oct, 75 Chinese Coast Guard vessels entered Japan’s contiguous zone over 25 days, including six in Japan’s territorial waters; notably, Chinese Coast Guard 7 Oct announced patrol had been conducted near contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Chinese state media 13 Oct reported Chinese fighter jets had carried out combat patrols over East China Sea to “drive away foreign aircraft”. Japan’s Joint Staff Office 17 Oct said Air Self-Defence Force scrambled fighters 446 times in first half of 2022, up from 390 in same period last year, chiefly over increased Chinese aircraft activities. Japan 3 Oct lodged protest with China over gas sea development in East China sea, in area where Beijing and Tokyo in 2008 agreed to jointly development resources; China unilaterally proceeded with development and has installed 18 structures.
Japan held joint exercises with U.S. and signed accord with Australia. Japanese and U.S. fighter jets 4 Oct conducted bilateral exercises over Sea of Japan following same day North Korean ballistic missile test for first time since 2017 (see Korean Peninsula). Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force and U.S. Marine Corps 10 Oct held joint drill in Hokkaido as part of 14-day joint exercises, simulating defence of remote islands. Japan and Australia 22 Oct signed joint declaration on security cooperation, where both countries committed to deepen and expand their comprehensive engagement, which include military, cyber defences and intelligence cooperation, in decade ahead.
China continued high maritime presence in waters around contested Senkaku/Diaoyu island chain, while Beijing and Tokyo held high-level virtual meeting.Chinese vessels maintained high maritime activity. Four Chinese vessels 8 Sept entered waters around contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands; Japan next day said it was “extremely concerned” about Chinese activities around islands. As of 27 Sept, 68 Chinese Coast Guard vessels entered Japan’s contiguous zone over 19 days, including four identified in Japan’s territorial waters; notably, one Chinese naval vessel 15 Sept entered Japan’s territorial waters off southern Kagoshima prefecture.Japan-China FMs held video-conference to discuss relations. Ahead of fiftieth anniversary of Japan and China normalising relations on 29 Sept, Chinese FM Wang Yi and Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi 12 Sept outlined five points on bilateral relations, including to “deepen cooperation” and “foster positive and friendly mutual perception”.Japan conducted military exercises with India and U.S. Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force 10 Sept commenced week-long joint exercise with Indian Navy in Bay of Bengal. Japanese Air Self-Defence Force 12 Sept held joint exercises with U.S. forces in Sea of Japan off Aomori prefecture; USS Ronald Reagan same day departed Yokosuka to resume patrol. Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada 14 Sept held first meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in which both agreed on joint technological research to counter hypersonic weapons.
China’s live-fire drills around Taiwan spilled over into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), while Tokyo and Beijing held first high-level dialogue since Feb 2020. Five ballistic missiles – fired during Chinese live-fire drill in retaliation for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit (see Taiwan Strait) – 4 Aug landed in Japan’s EEZ in first ever such incident; Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi described event as “grave matter”, while China said it did not recognise Japan’s EEZ. Despite incident, China and Japan 17 Aug held high level security talks in first such dialogue between two countries since Feb 2020; both countries agreed to continue communication. As of 28 Aug, 113 Chinese vessels had entered Japan’s contiguous zone during month, including 16 identified in Japan’s territorial waters. Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force 3-9 Aug conducted military drill during U.S.-led RIMPAC joint exercise, which saw Izumo aircraft carrier and Takanami destroyer participate. PM Fumio Kishida 10 Aug appointed veteran Liberal Democratic Party legislator Yasukazu Hamada as new defence minister in Cabinet reshuffle; Hamada served as defence minister 2008-2009 under former PM Taro Aso.
China continued naval activity in and around Japan’s territorial waters, while Japanese PM Kishida voiced desire to revise strictly pacifist constitution. As of 31 July, 114 Chinese coast guard vessels had entered waters around contested Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and 12 entered Japan’s territorial sea. Notably, Chinese vessel 4 July entered contiguous zone around islands to chase Russian vessel from area in what Tokyo called apparent attempt to assert Chinese sovereignty over islands; Chinese vessel had entered contiguous zone of islands only three times before, in 2016, 2018 and last month. Japan, Australia and U.S. 4-6 July conducted trilateral training exercise in East China Sea; Japan and U.S. 8 July held bilateral exercises in same area, including aerial exercises. In its annual report, Japan’s defence ministry 23 July said China continues to unilaterally change status quo in East and South China Seas. Following 8 July assassination of former PM Shinzo Abe in Japan, ruling Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito party 10 July retained majority in upper house elections; Japanese PM Kishida next day said he would push forward efforts to revise constitution’s Article 9, which renounces war, in line with both parties’ and Abe’s wishes.
Japanese military monitored increased operations by Chinese and Russian vessels around Japanese territorial waters, while Tokyo condemned Beijing’s construction activities in East China Sea. Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force 3 June sighted Chinese naval group sailing south east in area some 75 miles north west of Japan’s Amami Oshima Island. China’s largest destroyer Type 055 Lhasa 15 June held first long-range sea drills in Japan Sea since being commissioned in March 2021. As of 26 June, 102 Chinese vessels had entered Japan’s contiguous zone, including 14 identified in Japan’s territorial sea. Seven Russian warships 13-17 June passed near Izu Islands, south of Japanese capital Tokyo, in first such Russian presence since Oct 2021. Japanese defence ministry 17 June said it is on alert over increasing Russian and Chinese military activity near its territory. Japan 20 June confirmed China’s completion of new platform — its 17th —linked to gas field development in East China Sea, after earlier in month protesting Beijing’s moves to build 18th structure; Japan and China suspended negotiations on joint gas development in area in 2010. China and Japan foreign ministries 23 June held talks related to East China Sea. At annual Shangri-La Dialogue international summit held in Singapore, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida 10 June delivered keynote address outlining “Kishida vision of Peace” where Japan would boost regional defence and security role and commit to “realism diplomacy”, said Japan was standing firm against “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force” in East China Sea; Kishida also described Taiwan Strait stability as “of extreme importance” (see Taiwan).
China conducted series of maritime and aerial military drills and dispatched scores of vessels into Japan’s contiguous zone, while Tokyo stepped up overseas engagement. Chinese Liaoning aircraft carrier group comprising eight vessels 2 May sailed near main Okinawa island and transited Miyako Straits towards Philippine Sea, holding three-week-long naval drill and conducting some 300 plane and helicopter sorties; in response, Japan immediately dispatched aircraft carrier Izumo to monitor movements. Chinese navy 3 May released details of “realistic combat exercise” in East China Sea; navy also held sea and air drills 5-8 May to south east and south west of Taiwan (see Taiwan) and naval drills in Yellow Sea 15 May with largest destroyer Type 055 Lhasa. As of 19 May, 102 Chinese vessels had entered Japan’s contiguous zone, including eight identified in Japan’s territorial sea. China 13 May voiced discontent over EU-Japan joint statement mentioning dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan’s foreign ministry 20 May lodged protest against China’s unilateral gas field development in East China Sea. Japan 24 May scrambled jets as Russian and Chinese aircraft conducted joint area patrol near its airspace, coinciding with meeting same day of “Quad” countries, U.S., India and Australia in Japanese capital Tokyo; Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi called Russia-China action “provocative”. USS Ronald Reagan 17 May conducted joint exercises off Japanese coast with Japan’s maritime self-defence force. Meanwhile, Japan boosted international engagement during month with high-level overseas trips, highlighting Indo-Pacific regional stability and Ukraine crisis; notably, PM Fumio Kishida 29 April-6 May travelled to Europe and Southeast Asia 5 May, warning that “Ukraine may be East Asia tomorrow”; China next day accused Tokyo of “hyping up the so-called China threat”.
Japan reported uptick in Chinese aircraft incursions last year and proposed expanding defence budget to meet threats from China and North Korea. Japan Defence Ministry 15 April said it scrambled fighter jets on over 1,000 separate occasions in 2021 in response to aircraft approaching its airspace, up from 725 previous year; 722 scrambles were in response to Chinese aircraft, with majority over disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. As of 27 April, 84 Chinese vessels entered waters surrounding Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month; notably, four Chinese govt ships 12 April entered territorial waters, in sixth such incursion this year. Japan and U.S. 12-13 April conducted bilateral exercises in Sea of Japan. Russia 14 April launched cruise missiles from submarines in Sea of Japan as part of unilateral exercise involving fifteen vessels and aircraft. In first such report since Nov 2021, Japan 27 April announced Chinese navy ship sailed through its territorial waters. Meanwhile, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi 5 April said he would request raised defence budget for next year to manage Chinese and North Korean challenges. In sign of Japan recalibrating its traditional pacifist stance, ruling Liberal Democratic Party 15 April proposed country acquire enemy base strike capability.
U.S. and Japan held military exercise, Chinese maritime incursions continued around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and Russian military activity increased around disputed Kuril Islands. Japanese and U.S. troops 13-25 March held amphibious exercise practicing for enemy invasion of remote Japanese island. As of 28 March, 91 Chinese vessels had entered waters surrounding disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month; notably, four Chinese coast guard vessels 16 March passed through territorial sea of islands. Russia 10 March conducted military exercises on two Kuril Islands, controlled by Russia and claimed by Japan; six Russian vessels 14 March reportedly transited Soya Strait. One Russian vessel 14 March transited Tsugaru Strait and four Russian tank-landing ships 15-16 March reportedly transited strait toward Sea of Japan; Japanese Defence Ministry 17 March said vessels were possibly carrying equipment to Ukraine. In response to sanctions imposed by Japan for its invasion of Ukraine, Russia 21 March announced its withdrawal from dialogue to establish joint economic activities in Southern Kurils as well as peace treaty talks. Meanwhile, Chinese FM Wang Yi 7 March advised Japan to avoid “serious disruption” in bilateral relations, pointing to “major sensitive issues such as history and Taiwan”, and urged countries to be “partners, not threats”. After former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe late Feb urged Japanese govt to discuss possibility of nuclear sharing with U.S. (hosting U.S. nuclear weapons), citing potential threats from “neighbour that has no qualms about using armed force”, PM Fumio Kishida 7 March called idea “unacceptable”; senior lawmakers in ruling Democratic Party, however, continued discussions on idea, including shared decision-making in event of crisis.
Japan held joint military exercise with U.S. and participated in security talks with U.S., Australia and India. Japan and U.S. 3-7 Feb held joint exercise sea area from Luzon Strait to Mikyako Strait and East China Sea; Chinese state media 10 Feb said army conducted exercises in South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea in response. U.S., Australian, Indian and Japanese FMs in 11 Feb Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“Quad”) meeting issued joint statement reiterating importance of adhering to international law to “meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the South and East China Seas”. Japan’s Ishigaki City mayor 1 Feb said city employees and Tokai University 31 Jan conducted survey of disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands for conservation efforts and fishing, and indicated potential petitioning of central govt for permission to install sign on disputed islands to indicate Japanese authority; city council opposition said survey would damage relations with China. As of 23 Feb, 60 Chinese coast guard vessels had entered waters surrounding Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month.
Japan deepened defence ties with Australia and U.S., while encounters between Chinese and Japanese vessels in disputed waters reportedly doubled in 2021 compared to previous year. Japan and Australia 6 Jan signed reciprocal access agreement to facilitate enhanced cooperation between two militaries, marking first time Tokyo signed such security agreement with govt other than U.S.. Japan and U.S. next day held “two-plus-two” talks between defence and foreign ministers, announcing plan to conduct joint research on defence technologies including hypersonic missiles and space capabilities, and increase joint use of military facilities in Japan including south-western islands close to both Taiwan and disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. As of 30 Jan, 105 Chinese coast guard vessels had entered waters surrounding Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month. Japanese media 8 Jan reported Chinese coast guard vessels approached Japanese fishing vessels around disputed islands 29 times during 2021, doubling 2020 number. In 17 Jan speech, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida noted 50th anniversary of normalisation between Japan and China occurring in 2022, saying Japan would “aim to build a constructive and stable relationship” with China.
Former PM Abe issued controversial remarks on Taiwan, sparking Chinese diplomatic protest, while dozens of Chinese vessels entered waters around disputed islands. Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi 27 Dec said he agreed with Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on opening up a hotline between two countries’ officials amid tensions over disputed islets in the East China Sea. Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe 1 Dec said invasion of Taiwan is major threat to Japan’s territory and Taiwan-Japan relations are comparable to U.S.-Japan alliance; China’s Assistant FM Hua Chunying same day called emergency meeting with Japanese ambassador to protest Abe’s “extremely wrong remarks”; Japanese ambassador said Tokyo will not accept Beijing’s “unilateral assertion”. Joint press release following EU-U.S. high-level dialogue on China 2 Dec “expressed strong concern over China’s problematic and unilateral actions in the South and East China Seas”. Japanese govt 17 Dec revealed plans for creating senior diplomatic post focused on maritime issues in East China Sea, namely Taiwan and Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japan Ground Self-Defense Force alongside U.S. 4-17 Dec held largest bilateral training exercise of year in Japan, Resolute Dragon 2021. Japanese PM Kishida 6 Dec said Japan would “examine all the options, including the capability to attack enemy bases … and fundamentally strengthen our defence posture with a sense of speed”. As of 19 Dec, 58 Chinese coast guard vessels had entered into waters surrounding disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month. Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning 31 Dec concluded 20-day exercise in East China Sea and western Pacific, reportedly shadowed by Japanese aircraft carrier Izumo during drills.
Japan deepened ties with Germany and reaffirmed alliance with U.S., while China held live-fire drills. German navy frigate Bayern 4 Nov conducted joint exercises with Japanese navy, next day docked in Japanese capital Tokyo for first time in 20 years; Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan and Germany will increase cooperation in South China Sea. Japan’s newly appointed FM Yoshimasa Hayashi 12 Nov spoke with U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken, who reaffirmed alliance between U.S. and Japan as “the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the region, and globally”. China 3 Nov held live-fire drills in East China Sea, in likely response to late Oct U.S.-Japan joint exercises in South China Sea. As of 28 Nov, 80 Chinese coast guard vessels had entered waters surrounding disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku island chain, marked decrease from previous months. Japan’s and China’s foreign ministries 10 Nov held meeting on East China Sea; Japanese officials expressed concerns over China’s increasing military activities while Chinese officials called on Japan to avoid actions that could complicate security situation; both sides agreed to continue work on military hotline. Japan, U.S., Australia, Canada and Germany 21-30 Nov held joint naval exercise off southern Japanese coast. Reports mid-month indicated Japan was undertaking restructuring of its defence forces to increase integration between ground and maritime forces, likely in response to possible future Chinese military campaign against Taiwan as well as reflecting need to defend Tokyo’s Ryukyu island chain.
New Japanese PM reaffirmed U.S.-Japan alliance and need to increase defence capacity amid ongoing Chinese maritime presence around disputed islands. Following his appointment as new Japanese PM, Kishida 4 Oct stated China uses force to change status quo in region and emphasised need to improve Japan’s missile defence as well as coordination with allies. In call with U.S. President Biden, Kishida next day reaffirmed U.S.-Japan alliance and U.S. commitment to defending disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in East China Sea. Amid heightened tensions in Taiwan Strait, Japanese FM Toshimitsu Motegi same day said Japan will weigh different Taiwan scenarios to “consider what options we have”. In 8 Oct call between Chinese Secretary General Xi and Kishida, Xi said two countries should maintain cooperative relations, “properly handle major sensitive issues” and not threaten each other, while Kishida reportedly raised Senkaku Islands as well as human rights issues. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party 12 Oct revealed aim to increase defence budget to two percent of GDP. Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian warships 18 Oct conducted joint exercise, passing through Tsugaru Strait between Japanese main island and Hokkaido for first time. Number of Chinese coast guard vessels entering contiguous zone around disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands numbered 86 as of 28 Oct, while four vessels 20 Oct entered Japan’s territorial seas.
Japan’s calls for resolute defence of disputed islands in East China Sea, China maintained heavy maritime presence in area. Japanese foreign ministry 16 Sept announced it lodged formal protest with China over 30 Aug appearance of seven Chinese coast guard vessels in contiguous zone of disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, with ships approaching five Japanese fishing vessels; Japanese Coast Guard called event “extremely serious”, saying it was largest number of ships in area since 2016; unconfirmed reports indicated Chinese coast guard ship rammed Japanese coast guard vessel. Separately, at least 91 Chinese coast guard vessels entered contiguous zone of disputed islands during month, while four entered territorial waters. Elsewhere, Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force 3 Sept observed Chinese naval flotilla in Miyako Strait, which Chinese commentators described as warning to Japan and Taiwan, and Japanese defence ministry 12 Sept reported Chinese submarine in contiguous zones of its southern islands. Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force 15 Sept launched largest military exercise since 1993, with 100,000 personnel simulating defence of south-western Japan. Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi 16 Sept said Japan has to demonstrate its resolute defence of Diaoyu/Senkaku islands with “greater number of Japanese coast guard vessels than that of China”. Joint statement from first in-person summit of “Quad” leaders (U.S., Australia, India and Japan) 24 Sept noted need to “meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order” in East China Sea. Former Japanese FM Fumio Kishida 29 Sept won party leadership election and is set to become next PM; Kishida same day declared intention to pursue “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea amid ongoing Chinese maritime presence. Japan’s defence ministry 2 Aug announced plans to deploy medium-range anti-aircraft and air-ship missile units along with 500-600 troops to Ishigaki Island by end of 2022 in response to China’s growing military capabilities and presence. After China’s annual summer fishing ban in East China Sea ended 16 Aug – marking start of period in which waters likely to become more congested and tense – 40 Chinese fishing vessels were spotted 18 Aug on high seas around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japanese media 12 Aug reported Japan’s Coast Guard issued 80 exclusion orders in 2021 to Chinese fishing vessels suspected of illegally operating in territorial waters around disputed islands. Japan 19 Aug said that it would assign one of its largest patrol ships as early as Nov to Ishigaki Island, which has jurisdiction over maritime security of islands. At least 106 Chinese coast guard vessels entered into contiguous zones of disputed islands throughout month.
Tokyo linked for first time stability in Taiwan Strait to Japan’s security, while tensions with China over disputed islands in East China Sea continued. In notable shift in public tone, several Japanese officials openly expressed support for Taiwan and tied Japan’s security to stability in Taiwan Strait throughout month. After Japanese deputy defence minister late June called Taiwan “democratic country” during U.S. think-tank event, remarks which China 30 June called “erroneous”, Japanese Deputy PM Tarō Asō 6 July suggested Tokyo would join U.S. in defence of Taiwan in event of attack on Taiwan; China 6 July called comments “extremely wrong and dangerous”. In Defence White Paper, Japan 13 July linked stability in Taiwan Strait to Japan’s security for first time and emphasised concerns over China’s actions in East China Sea; China called paper gross interference in internal affairs. Meanwhile, U.S. and Japanese military forces 1 July conducted exercises on Japan’s Amami Ōshima island. Chinese navy 17-21 July conducted live-fire exercise in East China Sea, alongside exercises in Yellow Sea, Bohai Strait, and off coasts of China’s Fujian and Guangdong provinces. As of 28 July, 80 Chinese vessels entered into contiguous zone around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and ten Chinese vessels entered into territorial Japan’s waters during month.
Amid ongoing Japan-China tensions, Tokyo engaged in diplomatic tour to build common position on maritime threats in East and South China Seas. Regionally, Japanese Defence Minister jointly with Filipino Defence Minister 2 June expressed concerns over tensions in East and South China Seas and Chinese coast guard law. Japan and Australia 9 June also raised concerns over tensions in East and South China Seas and Chinese coast guard law as well as issue of peace and stability in Taiwan Strait; in response, Chinese officials same day said statement was malicious slander. Japan along with G7 leaders 13 June jointly confirmed concerns over tensions in East and South China Seas. At regional body ASEAN’s Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, Japan 16 June stressed importance of peace and stability across Taiwan Strait and called China’s coast guard law problematic in regard to international law. Meanwhile, Japanese Coast Guard 5 June reported that Chinese Coast Guard vessels sailed through contiguous areas around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands for 112th day straight, setting new record, while 16 Chinese vessels entered territorial waters during month. Notably, two Chinese vessels entered and stayed in territorial waters for 42 hours between 20-21 June, longest duration so far this year. Four Chinese vessels 26 June entered territorial waters, reportedly tried to approach Japanese fishing boats before Japanese Coast Guard warned vessels away.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea. At foreign minister G7 meeting in UK, Japanese FM Motegi 4 May raised “grave concerns” over Chinese attempts to change status quo in East and South China Seas. Defence Minister Kishi 20 May said Japan must increase defence capabilities, citing China’s increased capabilities. Draft Japanese defence white paper 13 May referred to Chinese patrols in zone around Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands as “violation of international law” and stated that stability of Taiwan Strait was important to Japan’s security; in response, China 14 May lodged diplomatic complaint. Japanese govt identified 104 Chinese coast guard vessels in contiguous zone and ten in territorial sea of Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month; Japan 16 May reported three Chinese navy vessels sailing through Miyako Strait. Japanese, U.S. and French military forces 11-17 May attended first joint exercise on Japanese territory; Australia 15 May participated in expanded naval exercise in East China Sea.
Amid ongoing Japan-China tensions, Tokyo deepened international security ties. Chinese carrier group 3 April reportedly spotted passing international waterway between Japan’s Okinawa and Miyako islands. In phone conversation with Chinese FM Wang Yi, Japanese FM Toshimitsu Motegi 6 April expressed “strong concern” over recent Chinese incursions into Japan’s territorial waters while Chinese counterpart urged Japan to steer clear of “internal issues.” In reassertion of its claim over disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, China’s Coast Guard 25 April publicised its patrol within territorial waters of islands and China’s ministry of natural resources next day published topographic maps of islands. Japanese PM Suga 26 April voiced “grave concerns” over China’s aggressive actions in surrounding waters during call with Indian PM Modi. Tokyo next day published annual diplomatic assessment, expressing strong concern over Chinese military activities; Beijing same day protested. In sign of deepening ties with Germany, Japan 13 April held high-level security dialogue with Berlin, proposed holding joint naval drills when German frigate visits Asia later in year. Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force 15 April announced nationwide exercises for first time in 30 years to boost deterrence and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi 23 April confirmed military exercises with U.S. and France 11-17 May in Japan’s south west. Suga and U.S. President Biden 17 April met in Washington D.C., committed alliance to face up to challenges posed by China and oppose coercion in South and East China Seas; Chinese MFA same day rejected statement; Suga 20 April told Parliament statement “does not presuppose military involvement at all”.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over disputed island chain in East China Sea as U.S. reaffirmed its support for Tokyo. Following tensions in Feb over new Chinese Coast Guard Law,Chinese defence ministry 1 March defended its coast guard activities in area near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea and urged Japan not to take “dangerous actions that may complicate” situation in area; Japanese Defence Minister Kishi Nobuo 2 March told media that such activities are unacceptable as islands are part of Japanese territory. Chinese defence ministry 2 March confirmed that Beijing and Tokyo have expanded their military hotlines. Two Chinese coast guard ships 29 March entered Japanese waters around Senkaku Islands, prompting Tokyo to lodge protest with Bejing. U.S. Sec Defence Lloyd Austin and Sec State Antony Blinken 15-17 March visited Japan and 16 March met with FM Toshimitsu Motegi and Defence Minister Kishi in Japanese capital Tokyo to discuss China’s “destabilising actions” in South and East China Seas; Blinken same day warned that U.S. “will push back if necessary, when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way"; Kishi and Austin also reached agreement to hold joint exercises between Japanese Self-Defence Forces and U.S. military in preparation for contingencies involving Senkaku Islands. In response, Chinese MFA called joint statement “malicious attack” and “gross interference in China’s internal affairs.” Tokyo and Indonesia 30 March signed deal to bolster security ties; Motegi said parties “exchanged views on the situation in the East and South China seas” and “shared serious concern about[…]unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force”. Municipal govt of Ishigaki in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture, which has jurisdiction over Senkaku Islands, 16 March confirmed it had applied to central govt for approval to install signposts on islands with newly chosen district name “Tonoshiro Senkaku”.
Tokyo expressed concern over new Chinese Coast Guard Law as Beijing deployed vessels to waters around contested island chain in East China Sea. After new Chinese Coast Guard Law – authorising “all necessary means” to deter threats posed by foreign vessels in waters “under China’s jurisdiction” – came into effect 1 Feb, Tokyo 3 Feb said it had conveyed “strong concerns” to Beijing over legislation; China 4 Feb claimed new law is in accordance with international law. Japanese govt officials 25 Feb indicated that Japan Coast Guard could directly fire on foreign official vessels aiming to land on Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Meanwhile, Japan Coast Guard reported several incursions of Chinese vessels into disputed waters around Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, including: two Chinese vessels 6 Feb; four Chinese vessels 15-16 Feb, one of which armed with cannon-like weapon; and two Chinese coast guard vessels 20-21 Feb; in each instance, Japan Coast Guard deployed vessels to area to protect fishing ships while urging Chinese ships to leave territorial waters; Tokyo 8 Feb confirmed it had protested to Beijing over recent incursions. Japan 15 Feb announced that it will build three transport ships designed to supply ammunition, fuel and provisions to troops stationed on its outlying islands. Japanese and U.S. coast guard patrol vessels 21 Feb conducted joint exercises and operations near Ogasawara Islands. On diplomatic front, Japan and UK 3 Feb issued joint statement urging all parties to “exercise self-restraint and refrain from activities likely to raise tensions” in East and South China Seas. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and Japanese FM Toshimitsu Motegi 10 Feb discussed concerns over increasing Chinese assertiveness around disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and reaffirmed strength of U.S.-Japan alliance. In first meeting since Oct, top diplomats of Australia, India, Japan and U.S. 18 Feb met for virtual “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue”, during which they agreed to “strongly” oppose any actions by China to alter status quo in region by force, according to FM Motegi. Japanese defence ministry 20 Feb announced French Navy vessel will conduct surveillance in East China Sea until early March aimed at supporting sanctions on North Korea.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea. Japan’s coast guard 13 Jan reported four Chinese ships temporarily entered Japanese territorial waters near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi 14 Jan held online meeting with UK counterpart Ben Wallace to discuss regional issues; both leaders agreed to “strongly oppose” unilateral changes to status quo in East China Sea through force, and Kishi welcomed PM Johnson’s Nov announcement to deploy carrier strike group led by UK’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth to region in 2021. Incoming Japanese Ambassador to China Hideo Tarumi 20 Jan said Tokyo and Beijing should focus on fighting COVID-19 before holding high-level talks. Chinese govt 22 Jan passed Coast Guard Law allowing coast guard to use “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and maritime rights. New U.S. Sec Def Lloyd Austin 24 Jan had first telephone call with Kishi during which he reaffirmed that Article 5 of U.S.-Japan security treaty, which stipulates U.S. defence obligations to Japan, covers Senkaku/Diaoyuislands; China 28 Jan responded that islands are “China's inherent territory”.
Tensions persisted between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea, while Tokyo continued security engagement with broad range of international stakeholders. Amid increased Chinese military activity in East and South China Seas, Japan, France and U.S. 6 Dec confirmed they would hold joint land and sea military drills in May 2021 for first time on one of Japan’s outlying islands. Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force and U.S. military 2-15 Dec held traditional large-scale joint military drill in southwestern Japan and 7 Dec launched separate exercise north west of Japan’s capital Tokyo; both drills focused on repelling attacks on remote islands. Four Chinese H-6K and two Russian Tu-95 bombers 22 Dec took part in joint patrol over Sea of Japan and East China Sea; Japanese Air Self-Defence Force scrambled fighters to monitor bombers. Japanese media reported that two Chinese ships 26 Dec entered Japanese territorial waters near disputed Senkaku Islands; Japanese Coast Guard Service urged violators to leave country's territorial waters. Chinese National Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi 14 Dec discussed via videoconference ongoing tensions in disputed East China Sea; Kyodo News reported that Kishi expressed concerns over Chinese ships “repeatedly sailing close to and entering the waters” around Senkaku Islands, while both ministers reiterated commitment to establish hotline between their officials. Kishi 15 Dec held online talks with German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, during which he called on Berlin to send vessel to participate in joint exercises with Japanese Self-Defence Force units in 2021. Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Kishi 22 Dec discussed regional security situation during phone conversation, including East and South China Seas, and reaffirmed continued close cooperation
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea; meanwhile, Tokyo and Canberra announced landmark military pact. Amid recent tensions over Chinese military activity in Asia-Pacific region, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga 17 Nov met in Japan’s capital Tokyo to discuss recent developments in South and East China Seas; meeting culminated in Reciprocal Access Agreement to bolster defence ties, allowing Japanese and Australian troops to conduct training and joint operations, and permitting rapid deployment of defence forces to each country. Both leaders same day expressed “serious concerns” about situation in East China Sea, vowing “strong opposition to any coercive unilateral actions”. Chinese state media 18 Nov criticised deal that “clearly targets China” and “further accelerates the confrontational atmosphere” in region, while Commander of U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet Vice Admiral William Merz 19 Nov welcomed pact as “encouraging to everybody in the region”. Following incursion of two Chinese coastguard vessels into Japanese territorial waters in mid-Oct, President-elect Joe Biden 12 Nov confirmed during phone conversation with PM Suga his commitment to strengthening U.S.-Japan alliance to achieve free and open Indo-Pacific, and that Article 5 of 1951 Japan-U.S. Security Treaty – specifically U.S. obligation to defend Japan should its territories come under attack – would be applied to Okinawa Prefecture and Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Chinese FM Wang Yi 24 Nov met with Japanese FM Toshimitsu Motegi in Tokyo where both agreed to continue communication on issues regarding East China Sea and to ease restrictions on business travels imposed in wake of COVID-19 by end of month.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea, while Tokyo and Washington began biannual military exercises. Beijing 3 Oct opened digital museum claiming “legal and historical proof” that disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands belong to China; Tokyo 5 Oct demanded museum website be taken down. Two Chinese coastguard vessels 11-13 Oct entered Japanese territorial waters around Senkaku/Diaoyu, staying for record 57-hour period; during stay, the vessels 12 Oct approached Japanese fishing boat in area, prompting Tokyo to send coastguard for protection and to lodge protest with Beijing over incident. Japanese Self-Defence Forces 9 Oct conducted anti-submarine drill in South China Sea. U.S. and Japan 26 Oct began biannual “Keen Sword” military exercises around Japan involving air, sea and land forces and including cyber and electronic warfare for first time; drills to run until 5 Nov; commander of U.S. forces 26 Oct said exercises would demonstrate forces’ ability “to defend the Senkakus”. New Japanese PM Suga 18-21 Oct visited Vietnam and Indonesia in first trips abroad; Suga and Vietnamese PM Phuc 19 Oct agreed to increase security cooperation, including by Tokyo exporting military equipment to Vietnam, while Suga next day agreed to increase speed of defence and trade talks with Indonesian President Widodo; Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper 19 Oct quoted Chinese analysts saying deals targeted China and could “cast a shadow over regional stability and peace” in South China Sea. In first speech to parliament, Suga 26 Oct stressed importance of stable China-Japan relations for both countries and region.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea. Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono 9 Sept said China was “national security threat” to Japan, while FM Motegi same day expressed concern over China’s actions in South China Sea at summit of South East Asia regional organisation ASEAN. Some 100 lawmakers from Japanese ruling-Liberal Democratic Party 17 Sept called for joint U.S.-Japan military drills around Nansei island chain, which includes disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands; in response to group’s call, Chinese MFA same day said islands are “China’s inherent territory”. Yoshihide Suga 16 Sept assumed office as Japanese PM, replacing Abe who resigned in Aug citing health reasons, with continuity in foreign policy expected; Suga same day appointed Nobuo Kishi as defence secretary, placing Kono in charge of administrative reform; Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper 20 Sept said “strategic framework of China-Japan relations will remain unchanged”; Suga and Chinese President Xi 25 Sept held phone call and agreed to continue high-level contacts but did not discuss Xi’s suspended state visit to Tokyo. Japan and India 10 Sept signed agreement for “closer cooperation between the Armed Forces of India and Japan”; during call same day, Indian PM Modi and PM Abe welcomed agreement, saying it would strengthen contributions to “peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region”. Japanese defence ministry 30 Sept announced draft budget with 8.3% increase, largest rise in two decades.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea. Japanese coast guard 3 Aug reported no Chinese vessels seen near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands due to Typhoon Hagupit, ending 111 consecutive days of continuous presence since April; Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono 4 Aug said military would support coast guard over island dispute and “act firmly when necessary” and 18 Aug reportedly told Chinese ambassador to Japan that China should refrain from military activities around islands. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe 28 Aug announced his resignation over health issues. Some 60 lawmakers from ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan 17 Aug formed pressure group to urge govt actions to control islands. Kono and U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper 29 Aug met at U.S. military base in Guam, agreeing to “oppose countries unilaterally changing the status quo by force” in South and East China seas. Amid arrest of activists in Hong Kong under controversial new security law, Japanese govt 11 Aug voiced concerns over territory and said it was important for Hong Kong to “develop democratically and in a stable manner”; Beijing same day called on Japan to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs”.
Tensions continued between China and Japan over disputed island chain in East China Sea while Japan concluded annual defence review. Chinese coastguard vessels 2-5 July twice entered Japanese territorial waters around disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, staying for periods over 30 hours; Tokyo 6 July said it lodged diplomatic protests with Beijing. China early July conducted military exercises, including live fire, in East China and Yellow Seas. Japanese ruling Liberal Democratic Party 3 July drafted resolution calling on PM Shinzo Abe to cancel planned state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Tokyo. Japanese govt 14 July published annual white paper on defence policy, accusing China of “relentlessly continued unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion” around Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Japanese media 19 July reported Tokyo’s Air Self-Defence Force has adopted policy of scrambling fighter jets against all military aircraft taking off from Chinese base in Fujian province near contested islands. Chief cabinet secretary 22 July said Chinese ships were spotted near Senkaku/Diaoyu islands for 100th straight day. In joint statement following 9 July virtual meeting, Abe and Australian PM Scott Morrison reiterated “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo or increase tensions in the East and South China Seas”. U.S. envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun 9-10 July met Japanese officials in Tokyo to “reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance” and promote “free and open Indo-Pacific”; U.S. 9 July approved sale of 105 F-35 fighter jets to Tokyo; Chinese state media Global Times 12 July called purchases “worrying” and raised concerns “Japan will break its peaceful constitution”. Commander of U.S. forces in Japan 29 July said Washington “steadfast” in support for “situation in Senkaku”, offering reconnaissance support of Chinese coastguard vessels around islands; in response, Beijing same day reiterated claim to islands and said it was its right “to patrol these waters and conduct law enforcement”. China 1 July released Japanese man detained in 2015 and sentenced to prison in 2018 on spying charges.
Tensions continued over disputed island chain in East China Sea. Japan’s Okinawa city council 22 June approved bill changing administrative status of disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea, asserting Japanese claim to islands; Beijing same day said it would lodge strong protest with Tokyo and warned “administrative re-designation is a serious provocation”, after Chinese Foreign Ministry 19 June cautioned against any change to status quo. Amid daily Chinese maritime presence around disputed islands since 14 April, Japanese coast guard 22 June reported four Chinese coast guard vessels in contiguous zone outside Japanese territorial waters. Japanese military 20 June reported detecting suspected Chinese submarine near Amami-Oshima island in East China Sea. Lawmakers from Japan’s ruling-Liberal Democratic party 4 June submitted resolution calling on govt to protest China’s “stalking” of Japanese boats in waters near islands. Amid controversy surrounding new Chinese national security law in Hong Kong, Beijing 10 June criticised Japanese PM Abe’s effort to take lead on G7 (group of seven nations including U.S. and Japan) statement on proposed legislation; G7 statement, released 17 June, highlighted “grave concerns” and urged China “to re-consider this decision”; Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono 30 June said passage of law would “significantly affect” Chinese President Xi’s planned state visit to Japan.
Tensions continued amid maritime incidents. Japanese Coast Guard said four Chinese Coast Guard vessels 8 May entered Japanese territorial waters around disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea, two Chinese ships briefly chased Japanese fishing boat; Tokyo lodged protest with Beijing over incident, while next day two Chinese vessels re-entered Japanese territorial waters. Also in East China Sea, U.S. B-1B bombers 4 May conducted training flight, and U.S. navy 19 May reported undertaking mine warfare training exercise. Beijing reportedly made diplomatic overtures to Tokyo, including suggesting relaxing rules on Japanese business community traveling to China. Lawmakers from ruling Liberal Democratic party 29 May urged govt to reconsider proposed state visit of Chinese President Xi following concerns over imposition of controversial new Chinese national security law in Hong Kong.
Tensions persisted amid continued Chinese military exercises. Japanese Ministry of Defence reported Chinese naval flotilla including Liaoning aircraft carrier 11 April passed through Miyako Strait in East China Sea, before sailing on past eastern and southern coasts of Taiwan to carry out drills; also reported flotilla returned to East China Sea through Miyako Strait 28 April (see Taiwan Strait). Tokyo 9 April announced Japanese air force scrambled jets to intercept Chinese military aircraft 675 times 1 April 2019- 31 March 2020, 5.8% increase compared to previous year.
Amid COVID-19 spread, Japan 5 March said Chinese President Xi had postponed his planned April state visit to Japan. Japanese news sources 11 March reported Japanese navy built its first ocean surveillance ship since 1992, due to be deployed in 2021, in response to concerns over Chinese submarines’ activities close to and in Japanese waters, and with a view to monitoring North Korea over its development of sub-marine technology. Japanese warship and Chinese fishing boat 30 March collided in East China Sea; Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said one Chinese fisherman injured.
Chinese and Japanese FMs met 15 Feb on sidelines of Munich Security Conference in Germany: Beijing reassured Tokyo Chinese President Xi will visit Japan in April as planned despite coronavirus-19 outbreak and amid bilateral tensions in East China Sea.
Low-level tensions returned ahead of Chinese President Xi’s planned state visit to Japan in April; Japanese Defence Minister Tarō Kōno 14 Jan urged Beijing to respect international norms and said Japan “cannot overlook” China’s military presence in area around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japan’s Ministry of Defence 26 Jan released report showing air force scrambled to intercept Chinese military planes 523 times April-Dec 2019, 9.9% increase on previous year, with most taking place over Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japanese media early-Jan reported Tokyo threatened – under U.S. pressure – to retract US$102 million investment in unnamed port project in El Salvador after latter gave operating authority to Chinese company; in response, El Salvador govt suspended tender process for operating rights. Amid China-Indonesia tensions over Natuna Islands (see South China Sea), Indonesian President Widodo 10 Jan asked Japan to increase investment in fisheries, energy and tourism around islands, while Indonesia and Japan agreed to strengthen coast guard coordination.