On December 16, the Maritime Prefecture and the Atlantic Command in Chief announced that the multi-mission frigate [FREMM] Bretagne had just closely followed the AGI Yuriy Ivanov, one of the newest Russian intelligence vessels, during its transit in the Bay of Biscay. Until recently, a maneuver of this kind would have been described as “routine” and would not have been the subject of such official communication. However, times have changed… and the passage of military buildings near French maritime approaches is no longer trivial.
#Surgery | From 09.12 to 12.12 the FREMM Bretagne and its on-board 🚁Caiman accompanied, as part of the protection and control of our maritime approaches, the AGI Yuriy Ivanov, during its transit in the Bay of Biscay and until its exit from area of responsibility🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/PXtWULNTac
— Maritime Prefecture and ATLANT Command-in-Chief (@premar_ceclant) December 16, 2022
And an example has just been given in another context… Indeed, and while the naval component of the People’s Liberation Army [APL] had just deployed, for the second time this year, a powerful carrier battle group, formed around its aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning, between Okinawa and the island of Miyako, Tokyo announced that a Chinese survey vessel had ventured in its territorial waters, more precisely at the level of the island of Yakushima.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Defence, this Chinese navy research vessel, belonging to the Shupang class, was first spotted by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force while sailing 30 nautical miles southeast of Tanegashima Island.
Then the Chinese boat sailed in the contiguous zone of Japan, south of Tanegashima, before entering the territorial waters of the island of Yakushima. [située à 40 nautiques au sud de Kyūshū] at 6:50 a.m. [heure locale], December 19. Then he set sail for the island of Kuchinoerabu, before leaving Japanese waters around 10:30 a.m.
Apparently, this incident is not the first of its kind… “This is the ninth time this year that we have announced the entry of a Chinese navy vessel into Japanese territorial waters”, indeed specified the Japanese ministry. of the defense.
According to Kyodyo News, the first was reported in November 2021. And, since the end of April, the pace of these intrusions – which does not only concern the Senkaku Islands, coveted by Beijing – therefore seems to be accelerating.
As a reminder, territorial waters have a width of 12 nautical miles, measured from the coast. The 12 nautical miles beyond this limit correspond to the contiguous zone.
On December 19, it was confirmed that a Chinese Navy Shupang-class survey ship sailed through Japan’s territorial waters near Yakushima Island. This is the 9th time, the first since November this year, that we announce Chinese Naval vessel’s entry into Japan’s territorial waters. pic.twitter.com/Fof3Ra7x2j
— Japan Ministry of Defense/Self-Defense Forces (@ModJapan_en) December 19, 2022
Be that as it may, Tokyo protested through diplomatic channels against this new intrusion of a Chinese military vessel into its territorial waters. “We have expressed our deep concern,” insisted Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, at a press conference.
However, in Beijing, any violation of Japanese territorial waters is denied. “Many straits near Japan are international straits where foreign warships can pass freely” and “it is common practice for the Chinese Navy to conduct scientific research around the world,” the military expert argued. Song Zhongping, in the pages of the Global Times, a newspaper close to the Chinese Communist Party. “Pretending that Chinese ships have entered its territorial waters has become Japan’s usual way of promoting the ‘Chinese threat theory'”, even estimated the latter.
According to the law of the sea, a military ship can indeed sail in the territorial waters of a lambda country… but on the condition that its passage is “harmless”. This presupposes the prohibition of several activities, including the “collection of intelligence to the detriment of the defense and security of the coastal State”.