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Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012
Coast guard's potential options in response to Chinese fishing boat armada at Senkaku Islands
The government will have a difficult time figuring out how to handle the Chinese fishing boat armada reportedly on its way to the disputed Senkaku Islands:
What would the coast guard do if the boats enter Japan's exclusive economic zone around the islands?
If foreign boats are to operate in the zone, they are required in principle to obtain approval from Japan. However, Japan and China have signed a fishing agreement allowing Chinese fishing boats to operate in such zones. The coast guard will thus take no law enforcement action against Chinese fishing boats.
What would happen if Chinese fishing boats enter the contiguous zone within 22 km of Japan's territorial waters around the islands, which extend 22 km?
Japan can apply domestic law to the contiguous zone to prevent any crime in its territory, including territorial waters. But this zone is part of the exclusive economic zone where Chinese fishing boats can operate.
If Chinese boats approach Japan's territorial waters, coast guard cutters may warn them against entering.
What would happen if the Chinese fishing boats end up in territorial waters?
Coast guard ships would be able to take domestic law enforcement action.
The coast guard is authorized to arrest foreigners engaged in illegal fishing within Japan's territorial waters, under the law on regulation of fishing operations by foreign nationals.
What if the Chinese fishing boats collide with Japanese patrol ships?
If a Chinese fishing boat hits a patrol ship or rejects inspection by coast guard personnel, Japanese officials are authorized to arrest the fishing boat crew for criminal prosecution.
What if some Chinese decide to land on one of the islets?
Police could arrest them for violating immigration laws.
The Diet recently enacted a legal revision that will take effect next Tuesday to authorize the coast guard to seize foreigners landing on isolated islands, including the Senkakus.
How would the coast guard respond if a massive number of Chinese boats enter territorial waters?
It could be effectively impossible to arrest all of the Chinese crew members. Coast guard ships would approach the boats and demand their withdrawal.