1. They are all deliberate acts, and the most recent one involves yet another government agency. It looks like a pattern is emerging.Incidentally, you don’t want to mess with a Chinese research vessel if my experience 31 years ago is any indication. I was doing UNCLOS and ocean development at time and went to see a Japanese research vessel. There was a Chinese research vessel berth at the same port, there apparently as part of a bilateral exchange program. I went to take a look at it—I think I could actually go on board, but my memory may be playing tricks on me—and saw a piece of equipment rising from the deck and covered with a sheet that looked suspiciously like a large, mounted machine gun.
2. The Chinese authorities, like the Russians, are willing to take risks when they perceive weakness. They keep pushing until there's push-back, serious consequences. And the Hatoyama administration did act meekly in responding to the first PLA Navy incident, and the second one quieted down after a mysterious intelligence leak about an exchange between the mother vessel and the helicopter that indicated that the pilot had been freelancing.
3. The tipping point will come if and when someone on the Japanese side is killed.
4. It’s surprising that this happened parallel to the unofficial bilateral talks on the South China Sea gas fields. Perhaps they'll finally move forward on the Japanese buy-in agreement under the Fukuda administration. After all, a Japanese company/consortium taking a minority share in a Chinese development company on the Chinese side of the median line makes no concession on Japanese claims. But will anyone other than Asahi and Mainichi buy a Chinese attempt to camouflage its efforts to establish a new status quo?
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Another Maritime Incident, This Time with Chinese Research Vessel
The Yomiuri appears to be the first newspaper to carry the story about a Chinese research vessel chasing a Japanese Coast Guard vessel and forcing it to stop surveying the continental shelf on the Japanese side of the median line. The incident occurred on 3 May according to the Coast Guard announcement on the following day. It follows on the heels of two incidents, both involving the PLA Navy, one a fleet including two submarines in plain sight passing through the Okinawa islands—true, in international waters—and the other a helicopter/helicopters buzzing—twice!—a Japanese ship that went to observe those ships. I’ve given some thought to these maritime developments as well as the East China Sea gas fields. The following is the essence of my response to some questions. (They are not from a client, which is why I feel justified in laying them out here. I did leave out one point, because it concerns a novel idea—not quite useful in this particular instance in my view, but possibly applicable in a more general sense and certainly plausible—that did not originate from my side of the exchange.)