Japan to bolster coast guard patrols near disputed Senkaku Islands

AFP-JIJI

Japan will beef up airborne patrols of the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, an official has said, in response to increased Chinese activity in the area.

New crew members will operate two extra jets that will be deployed in the next 12 months to strengthen patrols around the Japanese-controlled Senkakus, according to a Japan Coast Guard spokesman.

“We’ll boost our aviation crew by bringing in 60 more members,” the spokesman said.

Japan will deploy two Falcon 2000LXS jets this fiscal year and one more plane next year to allow a “24-hour patrol system” to monitor the disputed islands, which are also claimed by China, where they are known as the Diaoyus.

The move comes after Japan spotted a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine in disputed waters early this year.

The uninhabited islets are at the center of a festering row between Tokyo and Beijing, which is also involved in a widening dispute with several Southeast Asian countries over islands in the South China Sea.

The Japanese government has long complained about China’s routine dispatch of coast guard ships to waters surrounding the islands.

Relations between Japan and China deteriorated in 2012 when Tokyo effectively nationalized three of the five islets.

Since then, the two top Asian economies have taken gradual steps to mend fences but relations remain tense.