China’s Consolidated Coast Guard Rocking The Boat?

The New York Times’s Jane Perlez reports that China has sent four ships to patrol disputed islands in the East China Sea in the past week in addition to flying an early-warning aircraft between Okinawa and Miyako, all part of a recently consolidated force intended to pressure Japan.  The report claims that the increase of Chinese and Japanese maritime vessels “has raised alarm in Washington about clashes that could lead to larger conflict.” However, the unified Coast Guard may make China’s activities easier to regulate:

At a conference on maritime safety in Beijing last week, four retired American admirals, three retired American defense attachés and a group of American maritime experts met with Chinese officials to discuss the ramifications of the strengthened Chinese Coast Guard.

The new coast guard is a “positive development,” said Susan L. Shirk, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, who organized the conference for the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Vessels belonging to the fisheries law enforcement agency have been particularly aggressive in the South China Sea over the past few years, and this kind of behavior may be modified under the new structure, she said.

“It’s good for China’s neighbors and the United States because we know who is responsible and who we can hold responsible,” Ms. Shirk said. “As they develop a sense of professionalism in accordance with international law, it should make for lower risk of accidents.”[Source]

The South China Morning Post reports that China’s revamped coast guard has “made waves” in Japan, prompting a potential early summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping:

Abe called on Friday for an unconditional meeting between his country and China as soon as possible. While Abe’s call drew a cool reaction from Beijing, his adviser, Isao Iijima, said Chinese leaders were considering it and he believed they would respond positively.

“I feel they are troubled by it, they are deeply thinking about it,” Iijima said when asked about the call for a summit.

“I don’t think it will take that long” before they meet, he said on the sidelines of a speech in his hometown in central Japan.[Source]

Read more about about the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island disputes via CDT.