Japan and China in confrontation


A longstanding territorial dispute between Japan and China is heating up, according to the Japan Times. Oil deposits as well as national pride make this a potentially explosive situation:

Five Chinese naval ships, including a guided—missile destroyer, were spotted Friday morning near the Chunxiao gas field in the East China Sea, where Japan and China have a dispute over demarcation, the Maritime Self—Defense Force said.

An MSDF P—3C patrol plane spotted the five vessels around 9 a.m. about 290 km northwest of Kume Island, Okinawa Prefecture.

It is the first time Japan has spotted Chinese warships near the gas field, although its research ships have often been sighted in those waters, the MSDF said. The ships' mission was unknown.

The group consisted of a 7,940—ton Sovremenny—class guided—missile destroyer, two 1,702—ton Jianghu I—class guided—missile frigates, a 23,000—ton replenishment vessel and a 6,000—ton missile observation support ship, according to the MSDF.

The ships' sighting comes amid rising bilateral tensions after a Chinese consortium said last month it could begin drilling for natural gas in the field as early as this month despite Japan's calls not to do so.

"We perceive it to be an intentional act, not a chance occurrence," a senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reckoned, adding that the matter would be brought up the next time the two nations hold working—level talks on the drilling issue.

Brian Schwarz    9 10 05