On August 7, the Japanese government filed an official complaint to the Chinese government over the discovery of a military radar installation on a Chinese drill rig in the East China Sea. The radar equipment observed by the Japanese is usually found on military vessels and is not needed to support energy field development efforts. The company operating the drill rig has not been identified, but the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) or China Oilfield Services are the likely suspects. In June of this year Japan discovered two Chinese drill rigs being constructed near its zone in the East China Sea. This discovery was noted in an IntelTrak alert on June 2.
Japan properly fears that China intends to militarize its gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea as as it has done on other occasions. In 2015, for example, Beijing moved the Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling rig 80 miles into Vietnam‘s exclusive economic zone, accompanied by over 100 vessels and military aircraft. In May 2012, CNOOC Chairman, Wang Yilin, described Haiang Shiyou 981, China‘s first domestically produced deep-water drill rig, as ‘‘‘mobile sovereign territory‘ and a ‘‘‘strategic weapon.‘ Such militarization efforts can easily be expanded to include other Chinese drilling platforms. In recent weeks, Chinese Coast Guard vessels sailed within 12 miles of the Senkaku islands and some 200 fishing boats encroached on Japanese territorial waters. It would appear Beijing is intent on replicating its militarization of the South China Sea in the vicinity of these islands.