I. The Big Story: Sino-Japanese Tensions
There have been attempts to stabilise Sino-Japanese relations since 2018. However, it has not succeeded. The Chinese maritime incursions in and around the Japanese held islands in the East China Sea have soared dramatically this year. According to the data released by the Japanese Coast Guard, Chinese ships and coastal guard vessels have entered the Japanese waters over 1000 times. That’s an eighty per cent increase over last year, and much higher than in 2012 when China began making regular incursions in the Japanese waters. The two countries are also involved in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diayu Islands in the East China Sea.
Japan has issued a dire warning to Beijing. It has shifted the epicentre of tensions to China’s backyard, the South China Sea. Tokyo has revealed its plan to send a warship to the contested South China Sea. It is planning to send its Izumi-class destroyer, which as per the plan will make stops at Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. From Sri Lanka, it will go and join the US and Indian naval vessels for the trilateral Malabar exercise in the Indian Ocean. Sources within the Japanese defence forces said that it is the biggest show of naval force by Japan since World War II.
The Japanese government also announced buying Mageshima Island in the East China Sea last week. The Mageshima Island is an uninhabited outcrop 21 miles (34 km) from the southernmost Japanese main island of Kyushu. The island, most of which is owned by a privately held Tokyo development company, is uninhabited and hosts two intersecting unpaved runways that were abandoned under a previous development project. The Japanese government said that the runways will be paved and used for US Navy and Marine Corps planes to simulate aircraft carrier landings. Once suitably constructed, the island could become a permanent base for Japan’s Self Defence Forces to strengthen its position in the East China Sea. This deal comes as the US is trying to spread its forces which are concentrated across the six bases in the region. The more bases you have, the more missiles an adversary would need to fire to overwhelm its target and gain an advantage in a combat scenario. Also, a permanent land base is considered more valuable than aircraft carriers, because they can withstand a great number of munitions. In theory, a carrier can be taken out with a single missile or torpedo. CNN reports that Magashima could facilitate new cooperation between the Japanese and US militaries by involving F-35 fighters. “Having Japanese F-35s on American naval vessels would be quite a signal,” reports CNN.