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Japan’s Coast Guard Plans to Build its Largest Patrol Vessel Ever as a Deterrent to Chinese Incursions in the South China Sea

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Senkaku Islands

The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) plans to build its largest-ever multi-purpose patrol vessel to boost its ability to counter Chinese vessels repeatedly invading Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, several government sources said.

The plan calls for the new ship to function as an “offshore base” that could carry a number of small boats and deter raids on the islands. It is planned that the ship will also be used to evacuate residents of remote islands in the event of an unforeseen event in Taiwan.

The largest patrol vessel currently in the JCG fleet has a gross tonnage of 6,500 tons. According to a draft construction plan, the new ship will have a gross tonnage at least three times as large and will be approximately 200 meters long.

The JCG will include the costs in its budget request for the 2025 financial year and aims to have the ship in the water by 2029 at the earliest. There is also a proposal for a second ship in the future.

The main focus is on improving the agency’s ability to deal with China’s increasingly hegemonic behavior in the East China Sea, including the area around the Senkaku Islands.

The government suspects there is a good chance that a Chinese attempt to invade the islands would involve a landing force of several small ships. In such a case, small ships can be dispatched from the multi-purpose patrol vessel to contain the enemy’s.

“If the enemy is aware of how difficult it would be to gain land, it increases deterrent power,” a government source said.

The government is investigating whether the new ship can accommodate a helicopter and can be equipped with a command-and-control function. The ship will also be stocked with food and supplies for use as a floating base.

The JCG also plans to utilize the new ship’s transport capabilities in disaster response and evacuations. The country is also considering using the ship to evacuate residents of the Sakishima Islands and other islands near Taiwan, should China ever launch an armed invasion of Taiwan.

In 2023, the government adopted guidelines setting out procedures for cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the JCG in the event of an unforeseen event. The JCG’s specified missions include evacuation of residents and search and rescue operations at sea.

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