Author: Not available
Posted on: April 28th, 2017

A slow-moving crisis continues to unfold in the East China Sea, focused on the disputed Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China (see satellite images at bottom), and on competition for seabed resources. With each passing year, the frequency of dangerous interactions between the two sides’ maritime and air forces grows. It is an incremental game of chicken, in which Beijing adds pressure bit by bit on Japan’s administrative control of waters and airspace over the East China Sea, while Tokyo remains determined not to cede that control.

An accidental collision could quickly spiral into a crisis. And even though both sides continue to use coast guard vessels as the primary actors around the Senkakus, Japan finds itself at a greater disadvantage year-by-year. Sooner or later, the law enforcement standoff over administrative control of the waters around the islands is likely to evolve into a naval standoff. As a result, China is not the only one seeking to change the game. In the face of steadily increasing Chinese pressure, Japan is taking steps to bolster its defense and coast guard capabilities in the Southwest Islands—those territories nearest to the Senkakus.

Tokyo does not release complete details on its forces in the Southwest Islands, but news reports and government documents provide a good overview of major existing facilities and planned upgrades. As expected, those facilities are geared toward island defense, air, naval, and coast guard capabilities, radar and signals intelligence, and air and missile defense.


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