Tensions Between China and Japan Escalate in the East China Sea

East China Sea

In two separate encounters, Chinese fighter jets flew too close to Japanese reconnaissance planes over the East China Sea. The incidents further increase tensions over a set of deserted islands known as the Senkakus Islands by the Japanese, the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese, and the Diaoyutia Islands by the Taiwanese.

During the first encounter, two Chinese SU-27 fighters flew within 150 feet of a Japanese P-3C reconnaissance plane. In the second incident, two different Chinese fighters flew within 100 feet of a Japanese YS-11 reconnaissance plane. The Chinese fighter pilots took no further aggressive action against the two Japanese propeller driven aircraft. Both Japanese flights safely return to base.

The Japanese have established an air defense identification zone over the island chain. Any foreign aircraft entering the area are required to identify themselves and provide flight plans. The Chinese have refused to do so.

In 2013, the Chinese made a similar declaration over the island chain that the Japanese ignore. Their Chinese military opted not to escalate their air defense identification demands when the US flew two B-52 bombers over the area.

The Chinese military has a history of risky aeronautic behavior. In 2001, a Chinese fighter pilot died after his plane collided with an American reconnaissance plane flying in international air space. The Americans were forced to make an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan and were detained by the Chinese. Representatives from China and the US managed to have the American aircrew released.

The Chinese flybys are another example of escalated tensions between China and Japan. Chinese coast guard vessels and trawlers enter the disputed island chain once or twice a week. When such occurrences take place, both sides use loud speakers to launch verbal warnings to leave their territorial waters.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the close flybys by Chinese fighters past Japanese reconnaissance planes over the East China Sea further increases tension between the two nations. He added the Japanese reconnaissance pilots reported the Chinese fighters carried missiles.

The Chinese Ministry of National Defense confirmed Chinese military jets approached Japanese planes in the areas in question. A statement posted on the ministry’s website said the Chinese flights were a legitimate enforcement of China’s air defense identification zone. The Japanese aircraft were interfering with a joint Chinese and Russian naval exercise. The statement further read that the Chinese have the right to maintain air safety and to prevent aircraft from entering its airspace over the East China Sea.

Chinese military officials have warned the Japanese to cease all surveillance and interference where Chinese and Russian warships are conducting military exercises. Failure to do so will result in repercussions where the Japanese will be held responsible.

Over the past 12 months, the Japanese have scrambled pilots 409 times to intercept Chinese aircraft, an increase of more than 100 times since 2012. In 2010, a Japanese Coast Guard ship intercepted a Chinese trawler. The Japanese arrested the Chinese captain and later released him.

The Chinese have adopted similar policies in the South China Sea. An oil rig was recently placed in waters claimed by Vietnam. Anti-Chinese riots took place across Vietnam causing the evacuation of Chinese nationals.

The Chinese have also annoyed the Philippines by establishing a presence on the Johnson South Reef, a 74 acre island lacking trees or water. There, the Chinese have constructed a building that could be expanded into a military base. Furthermore, Chinese Coast Guard ships attempted and failed to intercept a Philippine resupply ship. That vessel sailed to the half sunken ship Sierra Madr where eight Filipino marines are stationed.

Japan is one of the few nations in Asia able to match the Chinese on a military basis. The Japanese government is considering the deployment of 1,050 troops to the islands of Amamioshima, Miyako, and Ishigaki. With continued Chinese military flights and Chinese ships entering the disputed island chain, war could break out between the Chinese and Japanese. The Japanese have a defense treaty with the Americans that could bring US forces into such a conflict.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has said his government has attempted diplomatic talks to defuse the problems with the Chinese. At the time of the two Chinese intercepts, the Japanese reconnaissance aircraft flew in international waters to monitor the Chinese and Russian naval exercises. Defense Minister Itsunori said the Chinese the close approaches in the East China Sea were a deliberate act meant to intimidate the Japanese pilots.

Harassing two unarmed Japanese reconnaissance planes operating over international waters is part of the Chinese expansionist policy in the area. Both sides claim a series of inhabited island whose only purpose are a forward base of operation against the other. Chinese fighter jets flying too close to Japanese reconnaissance planes in the East China Sea will only increase tensions between the two countries.

By Brian T. Yates


New York Times


Hong Kong Standard

6 Responses to "Tensions Between China and Japan Escalate in the East China Sea"

  1. saibu yesufu   May 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Japan military modernisation and new ballistic missile could prevent further action or provocation by the Chinese.when ur adversary knows you can also inflict the same damage then war is less likely to occur.

  2. Brian Yates   May 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    For Luke: Four Chinese jet fighter pilots were not minding their own business when two unarmed Japanese propeller driven reconnaissance aircraft decided to buzz them. As pointed out in the article, Chinese fighter pilots have a history of risky aeronautic behavior. In 2001, one of their pilots collided with an unarmed American reconnaissance plane in international waters. The goal of the Chinese pilot was to intimidate the Americans into leaving. Now, the Chinese are picking on Japanese pilots.

    When any navy conducts military exercises, they are observed by other nationalities. People watching the exercise want to know what type of ships are participating and how well the crews perform during the maneuvers.

    Next issue, the Americans and Japanese are not the good guys and the Chinese are not the bad guys. Each nation has a personal interest in maintaining a presence in the region. The Chinese want a blue water navy. Doing so means bullying the Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipinos to back down from their claims. The Japanese believe the Senkaku Islands belong to them and plan to increase their military presence there. Again, as stated in the article, the deserted islands have no other purpose than to serve as a forward base of operation to whoever controls them. If a stretch of land is not occupied, the Chinese will remedy that problem. They have already done so in the Johnson South Reef. The Chinese have established an oil rig in an area the Vietnamese claim.

    Now for your question; Americans do not provoke the Chinese with their war planes in peacetime. They are not buzzing Chinese cities for the sheer joy of causing panic among the Chinese. As for your commit about Chinese war planes flying over Guan, Diego Garcia, near the coast of Florida, or Norfolk, my answer is simple. Let them. They only have to identify who they are upon their approach and their intensions for being there. If such planes come armed, they can expect to be intercepted and shot down—the same policy applies to any American or Japanese aircraft arriving unannounced over Chinese airspace.

    I will admit your comments have gotten me thinking. The growing tensions in both the East China Sea and South China Sea have easy solutions where everyone benefits. I will make my two cents the subject of an upcoming opinion piece.

  3. Cynthia Collins   May 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Article updated to reflect the correct names of the islands. – Cynthia Collins, Assistant Editor-in-Chief, Guardian Liberty Voice

  4. Brian Yates   May 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Pete, thank you for pointing out the naming errors in my article. I will have an editor at the Guardian make the necessary corrections.

  5. Luke   May 26, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Please, try to be somewhat objective. In this story the Chinese always seems to be the bad guys (the cowboys with the black hat?) and the good guys, the Japanese and the Americans (John Wayne with his white hat?)
    Just one question, why are the Amercans always provocating the Chinese with their war planes? Can you imagine Chinese jets flying over Guam or Diego Garcia, or every day near the coast of Florida? Or near Norfolk-Harbour? American are lucky that their B52’s were not shot out of the sky.

  6. Pete   May 26, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Mr. Yates, you obviously do not know the matter of this dispute well. Apparently, islands known as the Diaoyutai Islands by the Taiwanese, not Japanese and the Senkakus Islands by the Japanses, not Taiwanese.


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