The Yomiuri Shimbun The Japan Coast Guard plans to establish one of the nation’s largest bases at Kagoshima Port, to support security operations that would strengthen the JCG’s ability to counter repeated incursions into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands by Chinese government ships, according to sources.
The port will be expanded and three more helicopter-capable patrol vessels will be deployed to the base by the end of next fiscal year. The 6,000-ton to 6,500-ton vessels are the largest class of patrol vessels possessed by the JCG. This will be the first time several patrol boats of this size are positioned at a single base.
Since the Japanese government nationalized the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture in September 2012, Chinese government ships have sailed through the contiguous zone — an about 22-kilometer-wide area outside the territorial waters — around the islands almost daily. These vessels also intrude into Japan’s territorial waters several times a month. As of Thursday, Chinese ships had sailed through the contiguous zone for 63 consecutive days, their longest continued presence in the waters. Furthermore, government ships of 3,000 tons or more have also entered these waters as China steps up its activities in the region.
Twelve JCG patrol vessels dedicated to security operations around the Senkaku Islands have been stationed on Okinawa Prefecture’s Ishigakijima island, the closest base to the front line. However, these vessels are mostly in the 1,000-ton to 1,500-ton range and struggle to operate in adverse weather conditions. Consequently, the JCG decided to build up its fleet of patrol vessels that can stably carry helicopters and withstand bad weather at Kagoshima Port, the closest major port on Japan’s main islands to the Senkaku Islands.
Currently, the JCG has stationed one helicopter-capable, 6,500-ton patrol vessel — the largest in its fleet — at Kagoshima Port. According to government sources, the JCG will prepare a new dock for the exclusive use of the patrol vessels, and will deploy another two 6,500-ton vessels and one 6,000-ton vessel there by the end of fiscal 2020.