Two Chinese military aircraft approached a disputed area of the East China Sea claimed by Japan on July 4, Shinhua Financial News has reported. When the planes came within 37 miles of the Diaoyu Islands, the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) immediately scrambled an F-15 to intercept them.
Tensions about the disputed area have risen since last year when a Chinese trawler rammed two Japanese Coast Guard vessels. Since then, Japan has reported 10 alleged sailings into this disputed part of the East China Sea by Chinese fishery patrol ships.
Several Japanese boats had sailed near the Islands on July 3, as the Foreign Minister was on his way to Beijing for talks. During the discussions, a Chinese spokesman claimed that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the Islands, which the Japanese call the Senkaku.
Due to the rough seas, the flotilla returned to port the next day, where one of the Japanese fishermen claimed that he and his ancestors have fished in those waters for generations. Japan says that the Islands are part of Japan by international law.
Besides fishing, the area is believed to also hold oil and gas. The Japanese are seeking to develop the resources in cooperation with other nations in the region.
China had previously accused any country that challenges China’s claim to expand into the South China Sea of “playing with fire.” An American Asst. Secretary of State was then dispatched for talks with a Chinese Vice Foreign Minister in Hawaii.
This incident followed a series of confrontations, seven this year already, which prompted US Senator James Inhofe to warn that “China’s continued harassment will no longer be tolerated.”
The timing of the most recent foray is not without historical significance. On July 7, 1937, the Japanese Army, seeking to isolate Beijing from Guomindang forces to the south, carried out unannounced manoeuvres near the Marco Polo Bridge.
A brief skirmish and troop buildup followed and both sides are regarded as violating the subsequent cease-fire agreement. With the loss of Beijing and Tianjin to the Japanese, Chiang Kai-Shek attacked Shanghai on Aug. 13, and the Second Sino-Japanese War began.