Japan has been increasing its Self-Protection Forces, including state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets and changing warships to plane carriers for them. It’s also constructing new destroyers, submarines and missiles, all of the whereas noting its navy expenditure nonetheless pales as compared with China’s elevated navy spending.
“Towards Chinese language motion to Senkaku Islands and different components of the East China Sea … we have now to exhibit that the federal government of Japan is resolutely defending our territory with the larger variety of Japanese coast guard vessels than that of China,” Kishi mentioned. “There is no such thing as a territorial dispute regarding the Senkaku Islands between Japan and different international locations,” he added.
Tensions over the uninhabited rocky chain — 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo however solely a 3rd of that distance from Shanghai — have simmered for years, and claims over them date again centuries.
When tensions spiked over the islands in 2012, it sparked a groundswell of nationalist sentiment in China. Public protests broke out in dozens of Chinese language cities, with Japanese-branded vehicles smashed, Japanese shops and eating places vandalized, and particles hurled on the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.
On the governmental stage, China has been simply as strident as Kishi is in claiming the island chain.
“The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are an inherent a part of China’s territory, and it’s our inherent proper to hold out patrols and legislation enforcement actions in these waters,” China’s International Ministry mentioned in an announcement final yr.
In accordance with Japanese authorities, Chinese language Coast Guard vessels have ventured into Japanese territorial waters, or inside 12 nautical miles of Japanese land, a complete of 88 instances between January 1 and the tip of August. Whereas within the contiguous zone, waters between islands however not inside 12 miles of shore, there have been 851 Chinese language incursions.
Consultants say China’s technique is to place its forces in locations in and round contested areas and exert Beijing’s legislation and authority over them. Such motion makes the Chinese language claims appear to be due course.
“Exercising coastal state rights is a crucial step in corroborating sovereignty by follow,” mentioned Alessio Patalano, professor of warfare and technique at King’s Faculty in London.
Kishi has taken discover.
“There are actions that proceed to problem an integral a part of Japan’s sovereign territory. These actions are making it a fait accompli,” he mentioned.
That “integral” Japanese territory extends even nearer to a different potential flashpoint within the Japan-China relationship.
Taiwan’s significance to Japan
Japan’s westernmost island is on the very finish of a string of Japanese possessions paralleling the Chinese language coast and lengthening south some 700 miles (1,125 kilometers) from the primary island of Kyushu, by the navy hub of Okinawa and the resort island of Ishigaki, to the tiny island of Yonaguni.
With its 11 sq. miles of rock and inhabitants of fewer than 2,000 folks, Yonaguni sits solely 68 miles (110 kilometers) from Taiwan, the democratically ruled island over which Beijing claims sovereignty.
Taiwan and mainland China have been ruled individually because the finish of a civil warfare greater than seven a long time in the past.
Nonetheless, Beijing continues to view Taiwan as an inseparable a part of its territory though the Chinese language Communist Get together has by no means ruled it.
China has been stepping up its navy stress on Taiwan. In June, it despatched over two dozen warplanes close to the island, prompting Taiwan to alert its air defenses.
Chinese language chief Xi Jinping says Taiwan should be introduced beneath Beijing’s management and has not dominated out the usage of pressure in making that occur.
That, mentioned Kishi, has Tokyo in a continuing state of vigilance.
On the time, Kishi mentioned it must be monitored with “a way of disaster.”
In his interview with CNN, he gave specifics.
“What’s occurring in Taiwan is immediately linked to Japan,” he mentioned, noting the island sits astride his nation’s “vitality lifeline.”
“Ninety % of vitality that Japan makes use of is imported by the areas round Taiwan,” Kishi mentioned.
It is a vulnerability that Tokyo has to mitigate.
“What might occur in Taiwan might seemingly be a difficulty for Japan, and in that case, Japan must take the required response to that scenario,” Kishi mentioned, whereas stressing that pressure must be subtle by dialogue, not violence.
However Tokyo is not simply utilizing phrases to again up its claims. It is also beefing up its navy defenses, placing missiles and troops on Yonaguni and planning on doing the identical to close by Ishigaki within the close to future.
“That is to exhibit our robust will to defend our southwestern space of Japanese territory,” Kishi mentioned.
In that regard, Tokyo has a key ally in its nook, the USA.
US President Joe Biden reaffirmed that safety dedication shortly after his inauguration in January, with a White Home assertion particularly mentioning the Senkakus.
Kishi mentioned this week that alliance is being strengthened, and in commenting on the Senkakus scenario, mentioned Washington has Tokyo’s again.
“We are going to proceed to conduct bilateral coaching with the US and multilateral coaching with different companions to strengthen our posture and contribute to the peace and stability of this area,” he mentioned, noting that naval workout routines have been held or scheduled with companions together with France, the UK and Germany.
Whereas lining up companions, Japan can also be enhancing its personal arsenal, together with growing and buying weapons methods that may strike areas properly past Japanese territory.
With out saying what areas these longer vary methods would possibly goal, the Japanese protection minister mentioned it was essential for the nation’s navy to have the proper gear to defend it from any risk.
CNN’s Eric Cheung, Emiko Jozuka and Junko Ogura contributed to this report.