China Coast Guard (CCG) ships have been activating automated identification system (AIS) equipment to signal their presence in Japan’s territorial seas near the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, since March, according to Japan Coast Guard (JCG) sources.
The JCG is leery of such ships because it thinks they are trying to make Beijing’s case to the world in order to establish effective control of the islands.
A radio device known as an AIS automatically broadcasts and receives data about a vessel’s location, course, speed, and other variables. All passenger ships and other ships making international journeys are obliged to carry this equipment under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. In densely populated maritime regions, radio signals are utilized to promote safe navigation and are picked up by nearby ships and satellites.
The “Marine Traffic” website, which offers details on ship operations worldwide, makes AIS data widely accessible to the general public.
China Coast Guard boats have reportedly been using AIS devices in the territorial seas and contiguous zone, a band of water that extends 22 kilometers beyond territorial waters, near the Senkaku Islands since March, according to sources connected to the JCG.
The CCG ships typically travel in fleets of four. On May 16, one of these ships, with the hull number “1302,” reached the contiguous zone. It entered Japanese territorial seas on May 20 and 21, seeming to be circling Uotsuri Island and Kuba Island.
The Chinese ship looked to be following a Japanese fishing boat in the territorial seas. According to information from the Marine Traffic website, it often changed directions in an erratic manner in the seas southeast of Minami-Kojima Island.
The Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats, in contrast, did not use their AIS technology when they ordered the Chinese ships to leave the area. This is done in order to conceal their reaction capabilities and activities. But because of this, it seemed to website users that only CCG boats were operating in the region.
A former employee of the JCG’s security branch claims that Chinese government ships had previously broadcast AIS data. But they ceased using the system in 2018, when the CCG was placed under the direction of the armed police force, a body directly under the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, which is in charge of the Chinese military.
Bonji Ohara, a senior fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and an authority on China’s security strategy, provided the analysis that they are transmitting AIS data to compile a record they might use as proof of China’s record of law enforcement in the surrounding waters in advance of a dispute over Senkaku territorial rights in international legal settings.
In order to prove to the outside world that Japan has territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands and that the islands are under Japanese sovereignty, Ohara said that the Japanese government must continue its efforts in this area.