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Chinese ships near Diaoyu Islands stoke Japan’s fears of Beijing vs Manila South China Sea-style clash

Chinese warships have been spotted in the area and near the boundaries of Japan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), the Japanese defence ministry said on Wednesday without specifying a period of their presence, according to a report by the Yomiuri newspaper.

In response, Japan deployed an airborne early warning and control system aircraft, a patrol plane and a helicopter to the area, located near Okinawa, along with at least one marine destroyer.

The islands fall within China’s self-proclaimed ADIZ, which has increasingly been patrolled by Chinese warships. Photos published in the Yomiuri newspaper on January 28 show a Jiangkai II-class guided missile frigate in waters near the islands.

While Japan is better equipped to resist Chinese aggression than the Philippines, Tokyo is “extremely concerned” over the possibility of things escalating to the point that water cannons or other weapons could be used, according to an analyst with the National Institute of Defence Studies (NIDS).

“Recently, Chinese coastguard vessels have been frequently chasing Japanese fishing boats in waters around the Senkakus,” said Masafumi Iida, a China expert at NIDS. “That is just one of the escalatory actions that China has been taking as it attempts to assume jurisdiction.

“Japan cannot accept that claim against its waters and this is a clear violation of Japanese territoriality over the Senkakus,” he told This Week in Asia.

Beijing has, for more than a decade, been stepping up its claims of sovereignty over the islands. It has undertaken actions such as repeated coastguard intrusions into the waters around the islands as well as drone flights. China’s air and maritime presence in the area is becoming larger and more frequent, Iida said.