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Is Japan countering China in Diaoyu Islands by building its largest coastguard ship?

The new vessel will be 200 metres from bow to stern and have a gross tonnage three times that of the largest ship serving in the Japanese coastguard currently, the Yomiuiri newspaper reported on Saturday, suggesting that it would weigh around 18,000 tons.

“Japan wants this new ship to be obvious and active and demonstrating control over the area,” said Garren Mulloy, a professor of international relations at Daito Bunka University and a specialist in military issues, told This Week in Asia.

“I do not see this as an escalation but a demonstration of policing and management by a non-combat organisation,” Mulloy said, referring to the Japanese coastguard ship.

Japan intends to use the new vessel as a semi-permanent floating base close to the disputed area, enabling the coastguard to monitor the activities of Chinese coastguard units that intrude into what Tokyo refers to as the Senkaku Islands and considers its territory.

Bilateral tensions continue to rise following an official protest lodged by Japan against China on Friday after four armed Chinese coastguard vessels entered the waters around the islands. Japan said it was the first time that Chinese ships with weapons had approached the Tokyo-administered islands.

The Chinese coastguard replied that the patrol was a “routine action” to safeguard Chinese sovereignty, security and maritime rights and a response to recent Japanese “negative moves”.

China is unlikely to attack Japan over their territorial row as it would be costly for Beijing due to the commitment by the US to help Tokyo under its treaty obligations in such a scenario, the analysts say.

The greater concern was an accidental clash that could quickly escalate, said Ryo Hinata-Yamaguchi, an assistant professor of