Japan Growing Concerned Over Chinese Presence in East China Sea Islands, Warns Of Deteriorating Diplomacy

East China Sea

Japanese officials have issued a statement to China, warning their neighbors to the west of the potential for “deteriorating ties” as a result of an ongoing dispute over the much disputed East China Sea islets.

According to Reuters, Japan’s warning of potential diplomatic threats against China come amidst the continual mounting of conflicts as the latter continues to construct various outposts in the contested area. New satellite images, the news source revealed, actually show the presence of newly reinforced Chinese aircraft hangars nearby.

The existence of this equipment, however, has only been compounded by Japanese officials discovering what Reuters called a “growing number of Chinese coastguard and other government ships sailing near the East China Sea islets.”

That is not to say that China is preparing for a new war against Japan, but just that this fact is seen as alarming by government officials in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

While this “rapid construction” of outposts is hardly any sort of evidence for China planning a war or even military conflict with Japan, some believe that the precedent may be in the process of actually being set.

“[The reinforced airplane hangars] are far thicker than [China] would build for any civilian purpose,” said the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative director Gregory Poling to the New York Times, the news outlet that first published still images of the China aircraft hangars in question.

“They’re reinforced,” Poling concluded, “to take a strike.”

Chinese ambassadors in Tokyo, meanwhile, continue to assert China’s prior stance that the land in question has never been anything other than its own territory. These representatives of the state government in Beijing are pushing to continue talks to resolve the dispute and preserve diplomacy with its fellow Asian economic powerhouse.

In the past, Reuters noted, China has criticized Japan for what it considered interference in the waterway.

Per sources, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida placed a call to Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua this week, expressing concern that China was trying to one-up Japan with regards to its presence in this natural water passageway.

Fumio Kishida
This perception that China was attempting to, as Reuters put it, “change the status quo unilaterally” left the Japanese government concerned, especially in light of Chinese ships coming close to the Japanese-controlled islands this past weekend.

Cheng would reply, also per Reuters, that “It is natural that Chinese ships conduct activity in the waters,” which he said he considers to be an “integral” part of China’s territory.

This dispute, China contends, can and should only be resolved through dialogue.

For its own part, Reuters noted, China has outright refused to recognize a recent international court ruling rejecting its claims to the at issue lands. China — which is now being pressured by a contingent led by Japan and the U.S. to abide by the decision — continues to lobby for a new verdict.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the… islands and nearby waters,” noted China’s Defense Ministry in a statement.

While others have expressed questions as to whether such military aggressiveness is actually what is in play for China as relates to its relations with Japan, nearly all experts in the field have concluded that the tension certainly continues to build with each related decision.”

“[China’s seemingly aggressive action] increases the angst and the uncertainty, that lack of transparency, and that is generally destabilizing as opposed to a stabilizing action,” commented U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift to Reuters.

China, meanwhile, continues to control most of the neighboring South China Sea, despite the claims of neighboring countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.

[Photo by Japan Coast Guard / Getty Images]