Beijing is persistently, and recently already aggressively, defends its right to disputed with Japan Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Chinese themselves call them Diaoyu Dao and seem to be ready now to establish their full control over them. The water area near the islands of the PRC was reinforced with two more patrol ships of the naval police, which added to the composition of two coast guard patrolmen equipped with large-caliber guns. There are also Japanese fishing boats here.
Considering that the Chinese authorities recently passed legislation allowing the Coast Guard to open fire on foreign ships if necessary, the situation can be unpredictable. In particular, it gives the right to use “all necessary means” to prevent threats from violators. The law also allows coastguards to demolish structures of other countries built on reefs claimed by China, as well as board and inspect foreign ships in this area of the East China Sea. The law does not stipulate against which country specifically such measures will be taken, although it can be assumed that, first of all, we are talking about Japan. The hammers are cocked.
It would be a stretch to call the Senkaku Islands an “archipelago” – eight small pieces of land with a total area of 6.3 square kilometers. The largest are Uotsuri, Cuba, Kitako, Minamikr and Taisho, the rest barely protrude from the water, their entire territory is uninhabited, there are no permanent residents here. It would seem, what is the subject of the dispute? Translated from Chinese, this ridge is called “fishing islands”, and there are also large hydrocarbon deposits that Beijing intends to develop. Plus – control over shipping and international air corridors. In general, the spool is small, but expensive.
The dispute over these uninhabited islands dates back to 1895, when they first came under Japanese control in the first Sino-Japanese War. Then Beijing, under the Shimonoseki Treaty, was forced to cede Senkaku along with Taiwan in favor of Beijing. After the end of World War II, the archipelago fell under the temporary jurisdiction of the United States, which in 1972 handed these islands over to Japan, which now considers them part of Okinawa Prefecture and the original Japanese territory. With which Beijing, of course, does not agree. Since 2012, patrol ships of the Chinese Navy and Coast Guard have regularly entered the waters near the Senkaku Islands, demonstrating claims to these territories. Japan also periodically sends its warships here, however, over the past half century, the matter has never reached military clashes, and the dispute over the islands is considered “frozen”.
Now the situation can change dramatically. Beijing has not responded in any way to Tokyo’s protests over the entry of its patrol ships into the zone off the Senkaku Islands. After all, the Chinese consider them their own and are already ready to open fire on Japanese vessels, which are considered violators. The PRC is not stopped by a certain warning from the United States issued by the head of the Pentagon. Lloyd Austin, who declared his country’s readiness to defend the disputed Senkaku Islands in accordance with the fifth article of the US-Japan Security Treaty. Back in 2014, “four principles” were concluded between Tokyo and Beijing, one of which says that Japan, which has been controlling the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands since 1972, recognizes that sovereignty over the islands is being disputed. China now wants to put an end to this dispute.
Japan, presumably, will not agree to give up the islands and is preparing itself to defend them. Even last year, the influential Tokyo publication Sankei Shimbun reported that by 2022 the Japanese coast guard should receive four heavy patrol helicopter carriers, which will patrol the East China Sea area – primarily the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands area. Currently, Japan has 67 patrol ships with a displacement of more than 1,000 tons, while, as the newspaper notes, China has 145 ships of this class in service.
In addition to the disputed territories in the East China Sea, Beijing has “problem” territories in the South China Sea, which several states claim. The ownership of the Paracel Islands is disputed by China and Vietnam, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei are claiming the Spratly archipelago, China and the Philippines are arguing for the Scarborough reef. The water area of this sea is of great strategic importance – international sea routes pass here, and through, for example, the Strait of Malacca passes about 40 percent of the traffic of world trade and transports up to 80 percent of Chinese imports of oil and gas. Also, large reserves of hydrocarbons were discovered near these islands – according to rough estimates, these are 11 billion barrels of oil and 5.9 trillion cubic meters of gas.
During the coronavirus pandemic, China has already managed to “master” some of these islands and have deployed its military bases on the Subi, Beda and Fire Cross reefs, and on Woody Island it has equipped an airfield with fighters, radar stations and missile systems. The Paracel Islands and the Spratly archipelago (Xisha and Nansha in Chinese) have two new administrative districts that will be part of the Sansha city of Hainan province, created by the Chinese government in 2012 to substantiate their claims to the disputed islands.
Beijing very consistently achieves the desired result and does not abandon its goals. Here you can recall how China received disputed territories from Russia. And this is not only Damansky Island, for which a whole battle unfolded in 1969, as a result of which 58 Soviet border guards and about 800 Chinese soldiers were killed. The island remained a disputed territory until 1991, and then, after being signed by the President Mikhail Gorbachev new border treaty with China, went to Beijing. At the same time, about six hundred islands on the Amur and Ussuri rivers and about 10 square kilometers of land were given to China. In September 1995, after the agreement was finalized, Russia lost another 1,500 hectares of land.
China was not going to stop there and began to demand the islands of Bolshoy Ussuriysky and Tarabarov near Khabarovsk and Bolshoi Island in the Amur Region. As a result, Moscow recognized them as controversial and decided to give them “for good” – in October 2004, the president Vladimir Putin signed the “Supplementary Agreement on the Russian-Chinese border on its eastern part.” As a result, Russia already in 2005 transferred to China the Tarabarov Island, part of the Bolshoy Ussuriysky and Bolshoi Island – only 327 square kilometers. Already in 2017, Beijing received another 4.7 sq. meters near the Khubutu river near Ussuriysk.
In the end, China achieved its goal, while “disputed” significant territories from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – the former republics of the USSR. With the exception of Damansky Island, Beijing “squeezed” the disputed territories without firing shots, but that tragic experience made everyone understand that jokes with the Celestial Empire are bad, and in the current economic and military state they are also dangerous. And here, as another joke, you can see, they say, it’s good that China does not lay claim to the Kuriles, otherwise these islands would have become Chinese long ago.