Shanghai – The China Coast Guard, which has been sending vessels into waters around the Senkaku Islands more frequently since 2012, plans to build a large base in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, to enhance monitoring of the chain, sources close to the matter said Saturday.
By building the base in Wenzhou, which is close to the Japan-administered islets, the coast guard is apparently hoping to bolster support for surveillance vessels so China can strengthen its claim to them.
China calls the uninhabited islets Diaoyu, but they are also claimed by nearby Taiwan, which calls them Tiaoyutai.
The move came after revelations that China’s military is building large base facilities on the Nanji Islands, which are in the same province and even closer to the Senkakus, indicating that Beijing is poised to test Japan through concerted efforts by the military and coast guard.
Earlier in June, the website of Zhejiang Province published the contents of a meeting between officials of the Wenzhou city government and the China Coast Guard, including the latter’s plan to build the base.
The base will occupy about 500,000 sq. meters and will have a pier around 1.2 km long with a facility where six vessels — including large ones with a displacement of up to 10,000 tons — can moor, a hangar for airplanes and helicopters, and a large training facility.
China will choose the location after examining several candidate sites.
The cost is projected at about 3.34 billion yuan (about $544.3 million) and the Chinese government will bear the entire expenditure.
The website noted that China has been regularly sending vessels to waters near the Senkakus since September 2012. That is when Japan decided to buy the islands from their private Japanese owner, effectively nationalizing the chain.
As for the purpose of building the base, it said the move would be beneficial for regular navigation conducted to protect China’s maritime interests. It also explained the geographic advantages of having the base in Wenzhou, which at a distance of around 356 km represents the part of the mainland that’s closest to the islets.
The post about the base plan has since been deleted.