[Ed. – This is legitimately a rapid escalation: a near-doubling of the number of Chinese coast guard ships shuttling around the Senkakus in the space of 24 hours. Japan is responding with patrols of her own, but will that be enough to prevent China from establishing a “new normal” that’s decidedly to Japan’s disadvantage? We have no reason to be complacent. It’s an open question at this point. The answer will matter — a lot.]
Japan has intensified its patrol in the hotly disputed East China Sea region after a record number of Chinese coast guard vessels were spotted. In an unprecedented move, as many as 13 Chinese ships, some equipped with guns, were seen sailing around the contested chain of islands in the region.
The islets, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have been at the centre of a bitter territorial fight between the two Asian powerhouses ever since Tokyo purchased them from a private owner in 2012. Since then, although there have been instances of Chinese ships visiting the region, this is the first time Beijing has deployed 13 ships.
Japan’s navy said seven of the Chinese coast guard ships were accompanied by scores of fishing boats on Saturday, 6 August; two more ships followed the next day. However, their numbers rose sharply again when four more ships joined the fleet later on Sunday, 7 August, reports Tokyo’s Kyodo news agency. Some of the Chinese vessels reportedly trespassed into the region claimed by Japan.