Chinese state-run media reported on Monday, September 17 that 1,000 Chinese boats were heading toward the Senkaku Islands, the group of islands at the center of a territorial dispute that has triggered numerous anti-Japanese protests across China since last month.
The “armada” was said to be made up of fishing boats from coastal provinces such as Zhejiang and Fujian, and while Chinese media made it sound like the fleet was getting ready to play a game of naval chicken, a Chinese fishing industry representative followed up by saying that the mass departure of boats from port was merely because waters in the East China sea had become open to fishing.
Still, when pictures like the ones above and below surface on the internet along with the headline “1000 Fishing Chinese Ships Heading to Waters Around Senkaku”, you can’t blame the Japanese for catching the jitters.
As of September 18, there has been no sign of the fishing boat armada near the Senkaku Islands, though the Japanese Coast Guard remains on high alert. A few Chinese monitoring ships were reported to have wandered into the contiguous zone on the edge of territorial waters, but nothing that was considered too provocative.
It could just be that the Chinese fishing boats were actually going out to do what it is fishing boats do best (i.e., not naval warfare). It would certainly be a relief if that were the case; protests in China have already gone far too out of control the last thing the situation needs is a bunch of angry fisherman throwing fuel on the fire.
According to Bloomberg, a group of about 60 Taiwanese fishing boats are supposedly planning to sail to the Senkaku Islands later this week to assert Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty over the disputed archipelago.
Let’s just hope the Taiwanese don’t show up to the party either, otherwise it’s going to be a busy week for Chinese protesters.