Japan Scrambles Military Jets Over the Senkaku Islands


In the last 48 hours, Japan scrambled military jets in response to Chinese military aircraft flying over the Senkaku Islands (referred to as the Diaoyu Islands in China), located in the East China Sea. A spokesmen for the Japanese Ministry of Defense acknowledged that the three Chinese planes (one Y-8 reconnaissance plane and two H-6 bomber planes) “…flew above public seas, and there was no violation of our airspace.” Nonetheless, this particular situation has prompted United States and Japanese military officials to meet in Hawaii this week for the first time in 17 years to go over bilateral defense guidelines.

The dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands is one which has deep historical roots. Japan claims that it owns the islands because back in the 19th century, it surveyed the islands and incorporated them into its territory as part of the Nansei Shoto Islands. Following the end of World War II, the United States gained trusteeship over the islands as a result of the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. However, the Nansei Shoto Islands were returned in 1971 as a result of a deal known as the Okinawa reversion deal. Since then it has continued to be Japan and the Senkaku Islands, not China and the Diaoyu Islands; a matter of fact that surely contributed significantly to Japan’s military jets being scrambled over the islands.

On the other hand, China claims that the Diaoyu Islands have belonged to it since ancient times and that such a claim can be “fully proven by history and is legally well-founded”, at least according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. China insists that along with Taiwan, the islands should have been returned. To make matters worse, in April 2012, the Japanese government announced it would use public money to purchase three of the islands from the Japanese private owner.

Regardless of whose claims are truer, Japan controls the islands right now and China still is not at all happy about it. Tensions have increased between the two countries since 2012 and in November of 2013, China went so far as to announce its creation of an air-defense identification zone which extend to the airspace above the islands. To further complicate things, the United States has an obligation to side with Japan per an agreement reached after World War II. The deal allowed the United States to have military bases in Japan in exchange for its word to defend Japan if it is ever attacked. The United States has made it abundantly clear that it does not want to get roped into a conflict with China, but it may not have a choice if push comes to shove by virtue of its agreements with Japan.

The outcome of this dispute is unclear, but what is clear is that, in the wake of Japan scrambling military jets over the islands, these tensions appear to be increasing, especially with China’s recent, stern rhetoric on the dispute from  Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, during a press conference. Yi’s words on the topic included how China will remain uncompromising regarding historical and territorial disputes and furthermore, how they will not be bullied by smaller countries, such as Japan. This attitude combined with China’s continued quest for a larger and greater military will certainly not alleviate any aspect of this situation for itself nor for the United States, Japan and the Senkaku Islands.

By Taylor Schlacter

South China Morning Post

6 Responses to "Japan Scrambles Military Jets Over the Senkaku Islands"

  1. Calvin   April 6, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Those islands belong to China/Taiwan.. clearly.. did you even see the map…
    Japan invaded those islands.. they should return them.. It’s full evidence that China/Taiwan have been using those islands all the time.. not Japan..
    Japan try anything funny, they will face consequences from both China and Taiwan together.. remember, the CCP Red Army and KMT fought side by side against the japs back in WW 2.. they WILL DO IT AGAIN..

  2. BlackWatch   March 16, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Dear Tufon. Thanks for sharing your opinion. Since China has effectively declared that the East and South China Seas are theirs, I’m wondering what rationale you have for your claim? I seriously doubt that China is going to be able to push the Japanese around and annex their territory as they have in th Spraley Islands right off the coast of the Philippines.

  3. tufon   March 14, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Effective action is needed to counter Japanese unilateral aggression over Diaoyu Islands. In addition to maintain increasing continuous patrol over Diaouyu Islands, Chinese from both sides of the Taiwan strait and oversea need to enhance the economic boycott non-exclusively including Japanese car, electronic products and travel.

  4. Taylor Schlacter   March 14, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Both are interesting comments. I think what this ultimately boils down to is the historical context of the territory and the willingness/determination by each country to maintain their claim. With China up and coming regarding its military power and economy, it seems likely it will continue to take riskier moves than Japan as both a show of its determination to regain the islands as well as a way to test the waters of Western (specifically the US) response to its regional aggression.

  5. mariposa   March 13, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    There is no law or justice in this world, only power counts. When Japan was mighty and China was week, Japan butchered Chinese and grabbed land at will. Japan should realize time is different. Did Japan ever imagine that successful moon landing by China in first try, which Japan never succeeded but failed repeatedly?

  6. justice_first   March 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Japan should accept that there is a dispute with China over the islands’ sovereignty. China is willing to have a dialogue with Japan over the difference in view on sovereignty once the fundamental agreement is possible.


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