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Asian Geopolitics
Japan Boosts Coast Guard Commitment in East China Sea

Japan is beefing up its maritime enforcement in the East China Sea as it seeks to deter Chinese incursions near the disputed Senkaku islets. Reuters:

Japan will step up efforts to bolster its coastguard as a territorial dispute with China over a group of East China Sea islets shows no signs of abating, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday. […]

Coastguard vessels from both countries routinely shadow each other near the uninhabited islets, stoking concern that an accidental collision or other complications could trigger a clash.

Japan’s coastguard budget for the year starting next April will exceed 210 billion yen ($1.8 billion) to help add five new large patrol ships to its fleet and increase the maritime law enforcement agency’s personnel by more than 200, Abe said. […]

Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii, whose portfolio includes the coastguard, told reporters the situation over the disputed islets was “heading for a higher degree of urgency” because of increasing Chinese incursions.

Under Abe, who pushed through an historic remilitarization bill largely to check China’s rise, Japan has not hesitated to challenge Beijing’s provocations in the region, whether by scrambling jets or announcing plans to deploy a new tactical ballistic missile to defend the islets. The newest measures only reinforce the impression that Japan is not going to blink any time soon.

The news also provides more evidence that China’s neighbors are stepping up defensive measures in every theater where the Chinese are pressing their maritime claims. We have seen this most prominently in the South China Sea, where Vietnam is building up its own runways and reefs in response to China’s ongoing militarization of its artificial islands. India, meanwhile, is eying closer naval cooperation with Japan as it warily watches China’s “string of pearls” strategy for acquiring strategic ports in the Indian Ocean.

Beijing will be none too pleased with its neighbors’ countermeasures, but it is unlikely to back down in any meaningful way—not so long as China can get away with snatching U.S. drones and making nice with countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia. Expect an emboldened China to continue to test its neighbors’ limits in the years to come.

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