Probably trying to get one last “visit” in before 2012 ends, three Chinese patrol ships have spotted inside Japan’s territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands on Monday. The Japan Coast Guard says the ships entered the waters one at a time starting around 1:32 PM, and were later ordered to leave area. Poor guys, I’m sure they just wanted to share a toast and maybe a high-five at midnight when the calendar turns over.
Upon being told to leave territorial waters by a Japanese patrol ship, one of the Chinese vessels responded with the Beijing government’s repeating claim that they are protecting territory that is an inherent part of China’s sovereignty. As of 3:50 PM on Monday, the ships still hadn’t left. As a sign of protest against Tokyo’s purchase of the disputed islands, Chinese vessels have been seen almost without end in waters around the territory since mid-September, repeatedly entering Japan’s territorial waters. The most recent instance was on December 21st, shortly after the Liberal Democratic Party won the Lower House elections, and Shinzo Abe was seen as prime minister in waiting until an official parliament session on December 26th.
A Chinese fishing boat was detained over the weekend, with the captain arrested after it was found illegally collecting coral within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. China also stirred up already simmering tensions earlier this month when a Beijing government aircraft flew over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the first such violation of Japanese airspace by the country in more than 50 years. Several fighter jets were promptly deployed by the Tokyo government in response, although no further action was necessary.