Published On: Thu, May 18th, 2017

South China Sea tensions at boiling point after Beijing ‘drone’ flies over disputed waters


Japan has lodged a formal complaint with China over the incident which occurred near the East China Sea islets which are under Japanese control but Beijing has contested the territorial rights.

Tokyo claims that four Chinese coastguard vessels entered its territorial waters around the uninhabited islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China along with a drone-like object which flew close to another ship.

The incident was witnessed by Japanese officials, the coastguard claimed and the event takes the number of intrusions by Chinese coastguard ships into the disputed water to 13 for this year.

Kenji Kanasugi, Director-General of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, protested to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo by telephone.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said: “The Senkaku islands are Japan’s inherent territory and the entry into the territorial waters by the Chinese government ships is absolutely unacceptable.

“On top of that, there appears to have been a flight of a drone. We lodged a stern protest against this unilateral escalation of the situation by China.”

An official from the Chinese embassy responded to the protest by reiterating “China’s own stance” on the islands.

In a brief statement on its website, China’s State Oceanic Administration confirmed that four coast guard vessels had been patrolling by the islands, but made no mention of any drone.

China routinely rejects Japanese criticism of such patrols, saying its ships have every right to operate in what China calls its territorial waters.

An official from the Chinese embassy responded to the protest by reiterating “China’s own stance” on the islands.

In a brief statement on its website, China’s State Oceanic Administration confirmed that four coast guard vessels had been patrolling by the islands, but made no mention of any drone.

China routinely rejects Japanese criticism of such patrols, saying its ships have every right to operate in what China calls its territorial waters.

China committed to “upholding using the framework of regional rules to manage and control disputes, to deepen practical maritime cooperation, to promote consultation on the code and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea.”

While an agreement has been reached it appears that some diplomats have privately expressed concerns over China’s sincerity over the deal.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhemin also appeared to issue a veiled threat, warning the US to keep out of affairs in the region.

Mr Liu said: “We hope that our consultations on the code are not subject to any outside interference.”

China claims the rights to almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods pass every year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.



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