The Japanese Coast Guard confirmed that three Chinese patrol vessels approached and seemingly chased a Japanese fishing boat in Japanese territorial waters in the East China Sea, near the disputed Senkaku islands on February 18. Zensho Naka, the captain of the No. 11 Zenko Maru said they didn’t think the Chinese could do “something so outrageous”.
According to Coast Guard officials, three of China’s Hai Jian marine surveillance vessels entered the waters in the contiguous zone in the north-northwest of Uotsurishima island, the largest of the Senkaku Islands, on February 17. They then made intrusions into Japanese waters the following day. They then approached the Zenko Maru, which also carried a reporter, cameraman and interpreter from a Czech TV station, together with the regular fishing crew. The Hai Jian 50 came as close as 1 kilometer to the island while the Hai Jian 66 went all around the island. Some of the crew onboard said that the Chinese vessels were chasing them. The boat received instructions from the coast guard to return home as fast as they could but the strong wind prevented them from picking up speed. After a “pursuit” of about one and a half hours, the Chinese vessels disappeared from view, and the Zenko Maru finally exited Japanese waters.
Tomas Etzler, the reporter on board, tweeted out this recap of the incident: “Chinese and Japanese ships sniffing each other at Senkaku / Diaoyu today. CN tried to chase us away. Got escort of 4 JPN coastguard ships.” When the Zenko Maru finally reached Ishigaki port, the coast guard told them not to approach the Senkakus unless they really have to, for the time being.
A senior Coast Guard official said they had no idea what the Chinese boats were trying to do but all they can do for now is deal with vessels that enter Japanese territory as calmly as they can. But since the Chinese insist that the waters around the Senkakus are Chinese territory, those vessels may have been attempting to “crack down” on what they see as an intrusion by a Japanese fishing boat.