Japan’s elite paratroopers from the country’s Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF) held their annual military drill on Sunday, and for the second year running, the theme of the exercise was the retaking of an island from an enemy. This exercise stands amid the tension that has constantly been growing between Japan and China over a string of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that are controlled and administered by Tokyo but also claimed by China.
The GSDF dubbed the military exercise “Island Defense”, where the country’s elite airborne troops simulated an attack and an effort to recapture a remote island from an enemy nation. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera was overseeing the drills, and he has said that it was the SDF’s duty to protect the territory around the disputed islands. “We can never overlook China’s repeated entries into our territorial waters. In addition to diplomatic efforts, we will cooperate with the Coast Guard to securely defend our territory and waters around the Senkaku islands,” Onodera said. At the beginning of the year, Chinese vessels had again breached Japan’s claimed territory around the islands. Three Chinese patrol ships entered the disputed waters early on Sunday, the first time since controversial fishing rules took effect on January 1, rules that were approved by China’s southern Hainan province.
Just as they had unilaterally announced the establishment of a controversial air defense zone that overlapped with the Senkaku Islands (claimed by China as the Diaoyus), these naval incursions are reminders of another unilaterally imposed fishing law which has sparked strong official reactions from Japan and the United States. “Setting something like this unilaterally, as if you are treating them as your own territorial waters, and imposing certain restrictions on fishing boats, is not something that is internationally tolerated,” Onodera said, claiming that China is “threatening the existing international order.” The United States had already spoken out against the fishing rules, saying that they were “provocative and potentially dangerous.”