The Senkaku archipelago, which is a Japanese-administered chain of islands, is located about 200km to the southwest of Okinawa, which is one of the prefecture islands of Japan. Originally the archipelago was annexed by Japan when China was defeated in the first Sino-Japanese war, which took place from 1894 to 1895. The problem is that these islands were left out of the Treaty of San Francisco, which took place after the war, and is now the subject of an argument between China and Japan.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said that he would be increasing the funding to the Japanese Coast Guard, which would allow them to add more warships to keep the island safe. The budget is to be increased to 210 billion yen, which means that five new patrol boats and over 200 more naval personnel will be added to the Coast Guard. In March, Japan deployed hundreds of troops and missiles in areas close to the disputed islands in order to halt the naval advance of China. Japan now has a camp with nearly 600 personnel on Amami-Oshima (奄美大島) island and another with almost 400 troops on Miyakojima (宮古島) island. This is a significant increase in the numbers of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) in the Southern Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures respectively.
Prime Minister Abe has had a law passed which will allow Japan to deploy forces in defense of any allies, which was imperative because of the massive increase in China’s naval strength. Over recent years, the Coast Guard and Navy of China have grown enormously and incursions by Chinese ships and boats into Japanese waters in the Senkaku Islands area have increased. Over 30 fishing boats and vessels belonging to the People’s Republic of China were spotted entering Japanese territorial waters in August 2016, and on one day 15 separate ships were all observed in the seas alongside these territorial waters. These 15 boats were escorting around 250 Chinese fishing vessels in these waters, and whether, by accident or deliberately, they repeatedly ‘strayed’ into Japanese waters. This was the first time such events had happened and appear to be a significant increase in the pressure over the Senkaku Islands.
China regards such issues as part of its security, and believes that the United States is a threat to them when it comes to such efforts. It also believes that international relations are ‘games’ played by the major world powers, and China’s idea is to rid the South China Sea of all US military so that the US would not have the opportunity to use military force in the area.
Japan also has another dispute over islands, this time with
Russia. Prime Minister Abe has met Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to try
and persuade Russia to return the Kuril Islands, which Russia claimed at the
end of World War II. However on this occasion the attempt was unsuccessful.
From the above comments it can be seen that Japan has multiple
territorial issues to deal with. With such strong adversaries it is clear that
Japan needs to maintain a bullish attitude towards these disputes, because if
they are seen to back down from either China or Russia, then the other may see
that as a sign of weakness and make their own moves.