CHINESE NAVY TRADES FIRE WITH AMERICAN FLEET OFF DISPUTED ISLANDS
Seoul – A brief exchange of naval and aircraft-based fire was reported today off the coast of the disputed Senkaku Islands. The ships involved are reported to have been Chinese ships belonging to the People’s Liberation Army Navy East Sea Fleet and American ships belonging to the United States Navy 7th Fleet. There are no reported casualties and reports of damage to the vessels range from “minimal” to “no damage.” It is unclear who fired first and for what reason, but experts hypothesize that the incident was a retaliatory action by the American vessels due to incursion of Chinese warships into Japanese territorial waters.
The islands, which are called the Diaoyu Islands in China, have been a long-contentious issue for both China and Japan, who both claim sovereignty over them. Japan claims the legal upper hand, arguing that they legally acquired the islands in 1895. Indeed, Japanese workers and businesses operated there until 1940, when they were subsequently abandoned. Both China and Taiwan claimed the islands in 1972, after a survey concluded that the islands were positioned over a large deposit of oil and natural gas and shortly after the American military handed control of the islands back to the Japanese government, having administered them after the surrender of Japan closing the Second World War.
Recently, the Japanese government announced that it would be closing all international imports and exports, as well as all civilian flights and ships, temporarily due to “unforeseen security measures” to an unknown origin. The unprecedented move shocked the world and caused significant losses in international trading markets. The Chinese government initially denounced the 3-day ban as a form of “economic warfare” according to Commerce Minister Zhong Shan. However, as the ban was scheduled to come to an end, the Japanese government suddenly announced that the ban would remain indefinitely and subsequently declared a national emergency.
In response to the declaration of emergency, the Chinese government dispatched its East Sea Fleet to “assist and provide humanitarian aid to our Japanese neighbors in their time of crisis.” The vessels, which included the only aircraft carrier in China’s arsenal, the Liaoning, multiple Luyang II-class Destroyers and numerous support vessels mark the first time that the Chinese government has exercised use of a forward-operating carrier task force. The Liaoning, originally built by the Soviet Union between 1985 and 1989, was refitted for “training purposes” by the Chinese Navy and commissioned in 2012 despite a late 2012 announcement that the vessel was combat operational.
During the initial travel ban, the United States responded by deploying the entirety of its famed 7th Fleet, which consists of multiple aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines, and support vessels to patrol around the island nation. A spokesperson for Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, stated that their mission was “to provide assistance of any nature required by our allies in Japan, and to contribute to their national defense and well-being.” In Korea, US Forces remain on high alert.
Thus far, the Japanese government has refused to answer any questions and has not made public the reason for the travel ban. In Korea, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se summoned the Japanese ambassador, who was unable to provide any information as a direct order from Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. News sources based in Japan, such as the Japanese broadcast company NHK, have had their international feeds and sources cut outside of Japan and most organizations that offer reliable news reports on the internet have either stopped updating or have been censored by the Japanese government.