Japan Plans to Increase Coast Guard Forces in East China Sea
Japan says it will increase coast guard resources in the East China Sea to help defend islands it controls that are also claimed by China.
The government plans to raise overall coast guard spending to a record $1.8 billion starting in fiscal year 2017. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlined the plans during a recent meeting with government ministers.
Abe said Japan had an “urgent” need to "substantially strengthen the structure and capabilities" of the coast guard.
Eight new ships will be added: five to conduct patrols and surveillance and three for research. In addition, more than 200 new law enforcement officials will be added to the coast guard.
Japan and China both claim a group of islands in the East China Sea. Japan controls the disputed islands, which are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The area is a popular spot for Chinese fishing boats and is believed to hold natural gas.
Coast guard ships from both countries regularly patrol the area. This has raised concerns that an accidental crash could lead to a clash between Japanese and Chinese forces.
“Since the fall of 2012, Chinese government vessels have sailed near the Senkaku islands almost daily, and have entered Japan's territorial waters around the islands a few times a month,” Abe told the ministers.
Aircraft have also been sent to the area to observe activity in the territory.
In September, China sent about 40 military airplanes over the Miyako Strait, just east of the disputed islands.
Japanese officials said the aircraft did not violate Japanese airspace. But it was the first time Chinese fighter jets had flown over the strait.
Japan has warned China not to send its fighter jets to the disputed territory.
Abe's cabinet is expected to approve a new defense budget reaching $44 billion. This would be Japan’s highest level of military spending since Abe took office in 2012, according to Japanese media.
Reports say improved missile defense systems, new submarines and other upgrades are the reasons for the increase.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, with additional material from VOANews, the Associated Press and Reuters. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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