On Monday, three Chinese coast guard cutters entered Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea, just two days after Secretary of Defense James Mattis publicly reassured Tokyo that the United States would defend the islands. The Chinese craft, which did not have permission for the incursion, loitered for two hours.
If Mattis’s words are to mean something, the US and Japan need to respond to China’s aggressive behavior.
In December 1971, China made an official claim to the Japanese-administered islands, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus. Taiwan also believes it has sovereignty over the barren and uninhabited outcroppings.
Taipei, a model international citizen when it comes to sovereignty disputes, has engaged in negotiations with Tokyo to settle differences. Indeed, Japan and Taiwan reached a landmark fishing agreement in 2015 regarding waters around the Senkakus.