Editor’s Note: This piece by Micah McCartney features quotes from CSP Senior Fellow, Grant Newsham.
A quartet of Chinese coast guard ships steamed through the East China Sea to the Japan-held Senkaku Islands on Monday, becoming the latest to dare a Japanese response in an area the United States says it is treaty-bound to defend.
The Chinese vessels entered the territorial waters around the islands at around 10:30 a.m. local time and departed two hours later, according to Japan’s coast guard—significantly shorter than the record 80 hours they spent in the area this past spring.
The Senkakus—five uninhabited islets and three barren rocks—sit about 120 miles northeast of Taiwan and 200 miles southwest of Japan‘s Okinawa prefecture. Beijing and Taipei also claim ownership of the territory, but only one, China, has been pushing the envelope.
The United States doesn’t take a position on sovereignty over the islands, but it recognizes Japan’s control over them as part of the regional status quo. In 2014, President Barack Obama became the first American leader to publicly declare that the U.S.-Japan security treaty extended to the Senkakus, too.
“Until about 2009 or 2010 the United States government didn’t give much thought to the Senkakus. But when the Chinese started to apply real pressure on the Senkakus, the Americans were forced to address the issue. The Japanese were of course insisting that the U.S. make a clear statement regarding the Senkakus,” said Grant Newsham, a retired Marine colonel who served alongside Japan’s defense forces.
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