An armed Chinese navy ship, alongside two other ships, today sailed into waters claimed by Japan—the first such encroachment. Bloomberg:
The three vessels approached waters north of Kuba Island from around 8:19 a.m. local time, entering Japanese territorial waters starting from 9:30 a.m. and left by 10:50 a.m., according to e-mailed coast guard statements. The armed vessel was the same one that the coast guard reported on Dec. 22 was sailing in waters 28 kilometers (17 miles) east-north-east of one of the islands, according to a coast guard official, who asked not to be named, citing government policy.
Kuba Island is among East China Sea islands whose sovereignty is disputed by Japan and China. Ships from both nations have been tailing one another in the area since Japan bought three of the uninhabited islands from a private owner in 2012. The dispute is among the biggest diplomatic issues between the two nations. The islands are known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese
Among the world’s top powers, the Japan-China rivalry has the most potential to launch a major war. But until this incident, there was relative quiet in this dispute. China had been calming the waters, smoothing over tensions in its relationship with Japan. If Beijing is now going to raise the stakes in the standoff over small islands, 2016 could see Asian tensions hit new highs. More aggressive Chinese policy in the East China Sea would be an ominous sign for the new year, indeed.