Japan is considering sending troops to the East China Sea amid a surge in Chinese activity near the contested Senkaku Islands, the South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.
According to the media outlet, the Chinese Coast Guard increased its presence in the waters claimed by both countries, with the vessels patrolling the Japanese-controlled islands as often as twice a week.
“Under our domestic law, the self-defence forces can use weapons as law enforcement against unlawful activities on behalf of our coastguard if the Chinese coastguard enters our territorial waters including surrounding the Senkaku Islands without permission,” the Japanese official said, as quoted by the newspaper.
The source added that although Tokyo did not intend to escalate the situation, it would step up pressure on Beijing through diplomatic channels and seek support from third countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada.
As of February, Chinese ships have violated the Japanese sea border eight times. In 2020, Japan registered 24 cases of Chinese ships’ violation of its sea border and 333 cases of Chinese ships’ entrance into Japan’s contiguous zone.
In mid-October, China’s vessels entered Japan’s territorial waters and left them only 57 hours later, marking a new record of the length of stay in the area. The previous record was hit in July, when Chinese ships drifted in Japan’s territorial sea for 39 hours.
The islands in question, known in China as the Diaoyudao islands, have long been an object of territorial disputes between China and Japan.
Tokyo maintains it has had sovereignty over them since 1895 and Beijing claims that the islands are marked as a Chinese territory on Japanese maps circa 1783 and 1785.
Following World War II, the islands were controlled by the United States and handed over to Japan in 1972. China believes Japan illegally seized them.