Japan to step up patrolling of territorial waters

Japan plans to step up patrolling of its territorial waters in response to an increasing presence of Chinese vessels in and around the waters near the Senkaku Islands.

The government has drawn up a policy on boosting the country's Coast Guard capabilities, including patrolling of its waters by ship and aircraft.

The move follows increased China's maritime activities in 2022 near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Japan controls the islands. The Japanese government maintains they are an inherent part of Japan's territory. China and Taiwan claim them.

In December, Chinese government ships navigated in Japan's territorial waters in the area for 72 hours and 45 minutes. That is the longest-ever continued intrusion of its kind since the Japanese government purchased some of the islands from a private Japanese owner in 2012.

The number of days that Chinese government vessels have been spotted in the contiguous zone just outside Japanese territorial waters reached 336 last year, the highest ever.

In November, the Coast Guard spotted in Japan's waters a Chinese government vessel believed to be equipped with a 76-millimeter cannon. The gun was the largest-ever for a vessel coming close to the waters.

The government's policy proposes increasing the Coast Guard budget for next fiscal year to the largest-ever amount of 243.1 billion yen, or about 1.8 billion dollars. It also proposes to add four more large patrol ships to the Coast Guard vessels.

Japan Coast Guard Commandant Ishii Shohei told reporters in December that, through its enhanced capabilities, the Coast Guard is committed to secure peace and bountiful seas based on law and rules.