• 34 cases of Chinese vessels sailing into Japanese waters were recorded in 2021 
  • In 2020, eight Chinese vessels breached the territorial waters of Japan off Senkakus
  • China said Japanese warships shadowed its carrier during drills in the East China Sea

China kept up the pressure on Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea by sending more ships into Japan's territorial waters in 2021. The island chain is under the control of Japan, though Beijing claims historic rights over it.

Japan Coast Guard officials said 18 cases of Chinese government vessels approaching Japanese boats were confirmed in 2021, up from eight cases in 2020, reported NHK World-Japan.

Besides, as many as 34 cases of Chinese government vessels sailing into Japanese waters were reported last year. The number was 24 in 2020.

The report added that Chinese ships sailed within the contiguous zone outside Japan's territorial waters on 332 days in 2021, almost the same as the previous year's record of 333 days.

Analysts say this could increase in the days to come. Kobe University Professor Emeritus Sakamoto Shigeki, an expert on international maritime law, told the news outlet that China intends to undermine Japan's effective control of the islands by cracking down on Japanese fishing boats.

China's increased aggression in the East China Sea has also provoked Japan to step up vigilance in the disputed water. To counter Beijing's belligerence, Tokyo plans to add 10 large patrol vessels to its fleet by fiscal 2025.

Japan also recently held a drill to simulate a maritime security operation "designed to mimic intrusions by the Chinese military." Reports said the drill was conducted in the event of a Chinese military vessel approaching waters near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The drill was based on a scenario in which Japanese patrol boats were struggling to deal singlehandedly with a situation, reported Japan News.

The drill revolved around one of the Izu islands, which represented a Senkaku isle. The exercise simulated the procedures Japanese coast guard and Navy would adopt if a Chinese military vessel sailed toward the island.

The situation involved a Japanese patrol boat "ordering" a mock Chinese ship to change course, but the vessel "ignores the instruction" and intrudes into Japanese territorial waters. A maritime security operation order was then issued, and the MSDF destroyers proceeded to prevent the ship from approaching the island, said the report.

The drill comes as China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, carried out combat exercises in the East China seas last month. Reports said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had fighter jet landings and maritime search and rescue operations as part of the drill. PLA sources had claimed that Japanese fighter jets and warships shadowed the Liaoning during the drills.

Senkaku Islands, Japan
A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (top), Minamikojima (bottom) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Kyodo in Sep. 2012. Reuters/Kyodo