The Japan Coastguard could henceforth open fire on any foreign vessels aiming to land on the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, local media reports said on Friday.
This comes weeks after China implemented a new law that allows its own coastguard to open fire on foreign ships that Beijing sees as illegally entering its waters.
Japanese government officials told a panel of the Liberal Democratic Party they had confirmed their interpretation of existing laws, Kyodo News reported.
Japanese officials had said earlier that Japan’s Coastguard was only allowed to fire weapons directly at foreign vessels in cases of self-defence and emergency escape.
The officials explained at a meeting of the panel, saying it was possible for Japan’s coastguard to fire on foreign official vessels aiming to land on the islands known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands for committing violent crimes.
The islands in question have long been an object of territorial disputes between China and Japan.
Recently, Japan lodged a protest with China after two Chinese ships intruded into Japanese coastal waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
According to the Kyodo News, the protest was conveyed to China’s embassy in Tokyo by the head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Director-General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs, Takehiro Funakoshi.
The news agency reported, citing Japan’s security service, that, before the incident occurred, four Chinese ships had been drifting near the Japanese coastal waters.
Later, two vessels approached the disputed islands, with one of the ships carrying a gun.
In mid-October, China’s vessels entered Japan’s territorial waters and left them only 57 hours later, marking a new record of the length of stay in the area.
The previous record was hit in July, when Chinese ships drifted in Japan’s territorial sea for 39 hours.
Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, on Saturday expressed concern about China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas in G7 talks.
He said Japan would say what needed to be said, and demanded action from Beijing.
In the early 2010s, China and Japan were mired in a territorial row over the Senkakus. Beijing has rapidly built up artificial islands with military infrastructure in the region, in its claim of sovereignty over almost the entire maritime region.
Moreover, China has conflicting territorial claims with four of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, U.S. warships carried out freedom of navigation operations in an apparent bid to challenge Chinese claims and actions in the area.