Tensions between Japan and China over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu islands continue to increase as both countries claim sovereignty over the key strategic region. The Japanese Ministry of Defence (Mod) has reported that fighter jets of the Air Self-Defense Force’s Southwest Air Squadron engaged in an emergency intercept operation to aircraft in the East China Sea on 19-21 March.
The MoD added that the Self-Defense Forces will continue to make “every step of their way to deal with airspace violations”.
To prevent accidental clashes, Japan and China announced in 2018 a new crisis communication hotline. However, the number of the scramble operations in response to unauthorized air incursions increased since 2018.
Japan, has recently, built new military bases on nearby islands to allegedly monitor the Miyako and Tokara Straits and prevent foreign powers like China from further developing its military presence in the region.
Tension in the East China Sea continues: dispute background
The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands were formally claimed by Japan back in 1895. Aside from a short period of time after World War II when the US controlled the islands, Japan has exercised effective control over the islands since the 19th century.
China reasserted claims over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the 1970s, on the ground of historic rights to the region. Tensions sparked again in September 2012 when Japan purchased three of the disputed islands from a private owner.
The islands northeast of Taiwan, not only have a significant economic value as they have a potential oil and natural gas reserves, but also are in proximity to prominent shipping routes. Also, small islands on the edge of the East China Sea may one day be used as an unsinkable aircraft carrier for the US Navy in the event of a conflict in Asia.