Chinese government vessels entered Japanese waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands on Saturday — the first time since China passed a new law that allows its coast guard to use military force in waters the country claims, reports Jesse Johnson. On Sunday, Chinese ships reentered the area for another five hours.
In a video meeting between bureaucrats from the two countries Wednesday, Japan conveyed its “strong concerns” to China over the legislation, which permits the China Coast Guard to use weapons when foreign ships involved in illegal activities in waters claimed by the country fail to obey orders.
Japan has received repeated assurances from the U.S. that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the two countries’ security alliance, including in the first phone call between PM Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden, just a day after new U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a similar commitment.
On Friday, the U.S. Navy conducted its first “freedom of navigation operation” in the South China Sea since Biden took office and, a day earlier, its first transit of the Taiwan Strait, Johnson reports. The message for China: Don’t expect any easing up of military operations in the western Pacific under the new U.S. administration.
Biden’s national security adviser affirmed late last month that the so-called Quad of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India will continue to play a key part in Washington’s policy in the Indo-Pacific amid China’s rise. A source tells Kyodo that the U.S. has already proposed holding an online meeting of Quad leaders.
The Biden team understands that no country can check Beijing’s territorial ambitions on its own, and rebuilding ties with Europe may be one of the best ways to craft an effective China policy, argues Brad Glosserman. Japan is also looking farther west for support, with ministers from Tokyo and London agreeing last week to conduct joint exercises when the U.K. sends an aircraft carrier strike group to the region later this year.