Japan protests China’s installation of buoy over its continental shelf

Beijing says it is for tsunami monitoring but Tokyo criticized it as “regrettable.”
By RFA Staff
2024.07.07
Japan protests China’s installation of buoy over its continental shelf A China Coast Guard vessel sails near a Japan Coast Guard vessel off Senkaku Islands, known in China as Diaoyu Islands, in the East China Sea, April 27, 2024.
Kyodo via Reuters

Japan has objected to China’s installation of a buoy in the high seas over Japan’s southern continental shelf in the Pacific Ocean without explanation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters in Tokyo it was “regrettable” that China set up a buoy at a location in the high seas surrounded by Japan’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, “without explaining its purpose and other details.” 

An EEZ gives a state – in this case, Japan – exclusive access to the natural resources in the waters and in the seabed.

The buoy was set up in mid-June in the so-called Shikoku Basin region north of Japan’s southernmost Okinotori Island by the Chinese survey vessel Xiang Yang Hong 22 during a voyage through Japan’s waters.

Japan urged China not to undermine its maritime interests, with Hayashi saying that Japanese authorities would monitor the situation.

China responded by saying that the Chinese vessel placed a tsunami buoy in the high seas of the western Pacific Ocean “for the purpose of scientific research and serving public good.”

Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Mao Ning said it was a “well-established international practice” to conduct scientific research in the high seas. 

“Japan has no right to interfere in such activities,” she added.

Last July, the Xiang Yang Hong 22 installed an ocean survey buoy inside Japan’s EEZ near the Senkaku Islands, which are under Japan’s control but also claimed by China. Japan protested and asked China to remove the buoy.

Mao said that the uninhabited islands, which China calls Diaoyu Dao, are part of China’s territory and it was “legitimate and lawful” for China to set a hydrological and meteorological data buoy in the waters there.

Increased activities

The 3,000-ton Xiang Yang Hong 22 is China’s first large-scale buoy operation vessel, specializing in deploying, recycling and repairing large buoys used mainly for oceanographic observation.

However, China is known for having installed buoys to mark sovereignty and reinforce its claims in disputed areas.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, or AMTI, at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a report China’s neighbors have been resisting its attempts to set up buoys across the region.

China installed a 15-meter-wide buoy in the East China Sea in 2021 to bolster a network of smaller buoys to collect data for safeguarding its maritime interests and to demonstrate Chinese sovereignty, the group said.


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China has also been ramping up activities in the South China and East China seas, especially near the Philippines and Japan.

Japanese and Philippine foreign and defense ministers are meeting on Monday in Manila to discuss deepening their security cooperation.

Philippine defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and his Japanese counterpart, Minoru Kihara, are expected to sign a reciprocal access agreement, or RAA, that will allow either country to deploy troops to the other's territory.

They are also expected to discuss a Japanese program, launched in 2023, that provides weapons to partners free of charge.

Japan has RAAs with only two other countries, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Edited by Taejun Kang. 

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