On 9 June, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force detected a Chinese naval frigate within the 24-nautical mile contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China claims the islands, but Japan controls them.
During the several hours in which the Chinese ship operated in Japanese-claimed waters, three Russian navy ships passed through the same area. (Coincidence? You decide.
Japan made a formal protest to the Chinese. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “We have noted the relevant reports. The Diaoyu Islands (the Chinese name for the Senkakus) have been an inalienable part of China since ancient times.”
“The Information Office of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said: It is reasonable and legal for a Chinese warship to sail in its own territorial waters. Other countries have no right to make thoughtless remarks. We will find out more to further understand the relevant situations mentioned in the media.”
This was the first time a Chinese navy ship steamed so close to the Japanese-controlled islands. Just last December, the first armed Chinese coast guard ship entered the Senkaku waters. Last month, Chinese coast guard ships operated in them on 28 of 31 days. In the context of recent Chinese behavior, the intrusion by the naval ship is an escalation step.
The Chinese succeeded in desensitizing Japan to the coast guard intrusions. The Japanese should be wary that the naval intrusion will follow a similar pattern.
Beijing has announced plans to put two more lighthouses in the Spratly Islands. Xinhua reported on 6 June that lighthouse construction work on Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs is being rushed and will provide navigational services to ships in the vicinity.
The lighthouse on the east end of Mischief Reef, which Xinhua reported is over 60 meters high, is one of the tallest structures in the Spratlys.
On Mischief Reef, Chinese engineers have reclaimed approximately 5.5 sq. km of land. Since January, infrastructure work includes airfield construction. Fiery Cross Reef has an operational airfield and other improvements.
A search of the web indicates China built and operates five lighthouses in sea areas that were generally considered too treacherous for much navigation. The new construction will bring that number to seven. Not surprisingly, the lighthouses are being built on reclaimed structures that have other infrastructure.
The need for navigational services is primarily a function of Chinese activities. Lighthouse construction and improved navigation aids must accompany infrastructure improvements. The ships carrying construction materials and basic supplies to the workers and soldiers represent an exponential increase in maritime activity in the Spratlys. Thus the Chinese reclamation projects and prospective mineral exploitation created the need for improved navigation aids and that need justifies building more and improving them.
Chinese and Chinese-sponsored activity should be expected to increase significantly after the navigation network is completed.
The Chinese do not fear the US (a paper tiger) or the Japanese who would be punching way above their weight to take on China’s brand new (built by US money) blue water navy.
Barack had no comment. But he sends his secret service detail out to buy quality marijuana and one can expect that he was puffing on a blunt while he didn’t read the “National Intelligence Daily”.