SDF, Coast Guard, police hold drill to keep armed fishermen off remote islands

Kyodo

The Self-Defense Forces, Coast Guard and police have conducted their first joint drill to cope with illegal entry of armed fishermen on a remote island, a government source said.

The exercise, which wasn’t announced to the media, was held Friday on an island in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Tensions have been high with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and Beijing has repeatedly sent vessels into Japan’s territorial waters around the disputed islets.

The Japan Coast Guard reported the latest incursion Saturday.

The source said the drill, aimed at increasing the coordination and capability of the police, Coast Guard and SDF, was not directed at any specific country or designed to simulate any location.

The three parties examined their collaboration based on a scenario that armed fishermen illegally landed on the island — a situation known as a “gray zone” incident that is short of an organized, premeditated attack by another country but one that poses a threat to Japanese sovereignty.

The exercise could trigger a protest from China as it came after Beijing agreed in September to accelerate discussions for an early introduction of a maritime and aerial communications mechanism designed to avoid unintended clashes in the East China Sea.

According to the source, dozens of personnel from each party participated in the drill on Eniyabanare in the Amami chain off Kagoshima. A helicopter and patrol vessel were also used.

Under the scenario, the Coast Guard restricted armed fishermen approaching by boats, while police and the SDF responded to fishermen who had landed on the island, the source said.

In July last year, the Coast Guard and Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted a drill in waters around Izu-Oshima Island south of Tokyo based on a gray zone scenario in which a foreign military vessel was spotted making suspicious movements in Japan’s territorial waters.