A promise between Japanese and Chinese leaders appears to have been one-sidedly discarded similar to a mere scrap of wastepaper, and this should not be overlooked.
China has started operating two gas fields near the Japan-China median line in the East China Sea. In early October, the Maritime Self-Defense Force confirmed gas flares at the production sites and photographed them.
This means 12 of the 16 offshore facilities that China has constructed are now in operation.
Demarcation between Japan and China on the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf where sovereign rights cover seabed resources has not been finalized. This is because some areas overlap within 200 nautical miles from each other’s coastline.
The offshore facilities are located on the Chinese side of the median line. However, they are still in disputed areas. China’s self-serving development to ensure faits accompli is the same tactic it is using in the South China Sea, where it has developed man-made islands. This infringes on Japan’s rights.
In May 2008, then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and then Chinese President Hu Jintao reached a common understanding that the two countries would cooperate to make the East China Sea a water body of “peace, cooperation and friendship.”
However, China has refused to start negotiations on the treaty for joint development and continues its unilateral development by constructing more offshore facilities.
In August, it was also found that China had installed ocean radar and surveillance cameras on one of its offshore facilities.
The radar covers a small sea area and appears to have no capability to detect approaching aircraft. However, if advanced radar is installed in the future, China would be able to monitor the activities of the Self-Defense Forces and the US forces stationed in Japan.
The Defense Ministry believes China could militarize the offshore facilities. As China has rapidly developed military facilities on many of its man-made islands in the South China Sea, the ministry’s concerns cannot be ignored. There is an urgent need to strengthen Japan’s vigilance in cooperation with the US.
(The Yomiuri Shimbun)