The formerly placid and generally deserted Senkaku Islands have been quite lively lately, with both Japanese and Chinese military craft sailing around and debating whether the water foaming in their wake is Japanese or Chinese. Taiwan just turned up with a fleet of forty fishing boats to make things even more interesting.
Taiwan, you see, also has a claim to the Senkaku, which everyone is treating as the best darn fishing spot in the South China Sea, even though it???s the offshore oil and natural gas that really commands attention. Also, domestic political conditions in both Japan and China have propelled both sides into a confrontation in which neither side can afford to look weak by backing down.
The Taiwanese say they just want to keep fishing in the area, rather than asserting control over the islands, although it has occurred to some in Taiwan that they should have rightfully inherited China???s old claims to the islands. Beijing, of course, does not see it that way.
The Japanese coast guard dealt with the Taiwanese fishing fleet by spraying them with water cannons. There were Taiwanese coast guard ships in the area, and they???ve got water cannons too, so a remarkable maritime water gun fight ensued, captured in this image from the UK Daily Mail:
The Taiwanese eventually lost the water cannon fight and went home. The crisis continues. While the Japanese and Chinese governments insist that all steps are being taken to avoid a military confrontation, the area off the coast of the Senkaku Islands currently looks like this:
Which brings to mind this famous movie moment from Fred Thompson in The Hunt for Red October:
Incidentally, China has an aircraft carrier now. It???s still a few years away from combat readiness according to experts, but it???s the kind of leverage that can rapidly change the balance of power in a naval confrontation. Alas, the Chinese did not have the cheek to name their carrier the American Deficit, after one of its most important funding mechanisms. This particular ship is a refitted Ukrainian vessel, but intelligence sources say indigenous Chinese carriers should be rolling off the lines sometime after 2015.