The US and Japan appear to be preparing for a conflict with China over the Senkaku Islands, according to News Corp Australia.
The tiny islands are located between the northern tip of Taiwan and the Japanese home islands and have been under dispute for a while, however they appear to be heating up.
Beijing claims that the islands are part of its historical inheritance. According to the Australian outlet, Chinese fishing boats are continuously performing aggressive incursions, in a way that they appear to be organized as a state militia. The Chinese coast guard was also recently militarized and is seeing tensions in the East China Sea.
Reportedly, Japan and the United States are drawing up battle plans to enable their forces to fight together against any Chinese incursion.
This is reinforced by the on-going military drills aimed at demonstrating the interoperability of Japanese Self Defense Forces with those of the US and Canada. These exercises are the biggest ever that have taken place around Japan. The Keen Sword exercise includes more than 57,000 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel, as well as the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan.
The Japan Times also cited government sources which claimed that there are on-going discussions to establish a joint response to any “emergency” on or around the Senkaku Islands.
“The plan being drawn up assumes such emergencies as armed Chinese fishermen landing on the islands, and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces needing to be mobilized after the situation exceeds the capacity of the police to respond,” the outlet reported.
An attack submarine is participating in KS19 with SG7 and JMSDF Sailors. For the submarine force, it is an opportunity to demonstrate how both countries’ submariners would detect, locate, track and engage enemy.#KS19 #KeenSword #Keensword19 @INDOPACOM @USPacificFleet pic.twitter.com/C1pjVRCL6R
— U.S. Forces Japan (@USForcesJapan) November 2, 2018
“We are here to stabilise, and preserve our capability should it be needed. Exercises like Keen Sword are exactly the kind of thing we need to do,” Rear Admiral Karl Thomas told a media briefing aboard the USS Ronald Reagan with its 90 F-18 Super Hornet strike fighters and 5000 sailors.
“The US-Japan alliance is essential for stability in this region and the wider Indo Pacific,” Japanese Rear Admiral Hiroshi Egawa added.
#KeenSword 19 provides joint and bilateral partners the ability to build trust and increase lethality. #KS19 @USAirForce @USNavy @bouei_saigai @jmsdf_pao_eng https://t.co/kj1Iupe5eR pic.twitter.com/eTeMQoBcWD
— PACAF (@PACAF) November 3, 2018
Keen Sword “remains an expression of the commitment of like-minded allies and partners. To really see what we can do in terms of demonstrating advanced capabilities together to ensure peace and stability in the Indo Pacific,” the Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said.
He also added that the US would continue its freedom of navigation operations in the East and South China Seas to emphasize on its opposition of “illegitimate maritime claims.”
Japan is also actively attempting to boost its military strength. In August 2018 it increased the maximum age for recruits. Due to the aging population the number of soldiers in the country is dwindling.
In May 2018 Japan also increased its military spending for the 6th consecutive year.
China is also not sitting idle. It is rapidly expanding and modernizing its Navy. On October 29th, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the military chiefs overseeing the South China Sea to prepare for war.
This followed the warning of Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges who claimed that it is very likely that the US will be at war with China in 15 years.
There are constant provocations by the US in the South China Sea, to which Beijing does not fail to respond.
Significantly, in late September the USS Decatur was taking part in a freedom of navigation when it had a close encounter with a Chinese destroyer.
A video released on November 4th shows the near-collision of the two warships:
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) November 4, 2018
The Chinese warship warned the US vessel would “suffer consequences” if it did not divert away from the contested waters.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve had a direct threat to an American warship with that kind of language,” Chatham House international affairs analyst Bill Hayton was cited by the South China Morning Post.
“The Chinese Luyang destroyer issued the stern verbal message to the USS Decatur before sailing within 45 yards of the vessel in the September 30 incident,” the Post reported, claiming that it is citing information obtained from the British Ministry of Defense.
“We are conducting innocent passage,” the USS Decatur responded.
Beijing stated the destroyer Luyang “took quick action and made checks against the US vessel in accordance with the law, and warned it to leave the waters.”
Beijing’s claims on the South China Sea are not recognized under international law, because The UN convention of the sea does not recognize sovereignty being established through artificial islands.
The escalation in tensions is apparent and is putting the region at the very high risk. Australian and New Zealand officials have repeatedly warned against a conflict between Japan, China and the US.