China Sends Helicopter Ships to Disputed Islands
Japan's concern over a standoff with China over the disputed Senkaku Islands deepens and might escalate.
The Japan Coast Guard and the Defense Ministry are closely monitoring voyages of the Haijian 50, which can be loaded with helicopters reports Asahi Shimbun.
The vessel, belonging to the China Marine Surveillance, an agency of the government’s State Oceanic Administration, sailed in the contiguous zone next to Japanese territorial waters surrounding the islands on 10 days in February. Of these voyages, it encroached into territorial waters on four days. The Japanese side was most alarmed on Feb. 18, when the hanger doors opened on the Haijian 50 while the ship was approaching an area about 1 kilometer to the southeast of the Uotsurishima islet, the largest of the Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea.
The Yuzheng 206, one of the largest surveillance vessels and which was converted from a naval ship in December, sailed into the contiguous zone eight days in a row until Feb. 28. It intruded in Japanese territorial waters on three of those days. This patrol ship, from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries, can also carry helicopters, like the Haijian 50.
Japanese government officials speculate that authorities at the two government entities were doing this to raise their profile among the Chinese populace as the March 5 opening of the National People's Congress nears.