Tensions in the East China Sea escalated this week after a sea area claimed by Japan was occupied by Chinese fishing boats that began operations.

United States and Japanese naval forces are joining to address the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are identified by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the Diaoyu Islands.

As reported by Express UK, U.S. Navy Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider confirmed U.S. support for Japan, stating that the “The United States is 100%, absolutely steadfast in its commitment to help the government of Japan with the situation in the Senkakus.”

“That is 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Schneider added.

Schneider also commented that the CCP ships were becoming bolder in their activities in the area, saying, “They were coming in and out a couple of times a month and now we basically see them park and really challenge the Japanese administration.

According to analysts, the islands are important to Japan because of their proximity to maritime shipping routes; they are also popular for fishing and are believed to be close to oil reserves.

“Beijing through the PLA continues to take aggressive and malicious actions in the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” Schneider said, adding, “In the South China Sea, they continue to intimidate partners, neighbors and others who have legitimate claims to territories, islands and features.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement denying the U.S. general’s pronouncements, reiterating its authority over the disputed islands and insisting that they are part of Chinese territory.

According to IBTimes, China is accused of conducting a campaign of attrition by attracting Japanese defense forces with frequent overflights and fishing boat incursions.

Lt. Col. Takamichi Shirota, commander of the 204th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) told CNN about the increasing pressure he and other pilots face, indicating that at least twice a day a siren was sounding that caused pilots to fly over airspace in order to intercept any strange incursions.

“The number of scrambles against airspace violations has been increasing rapidly over the past decade, especially in the southwest air zone. About 70% of the scrambles done by Japan’s SDF annually are conducted in this area,” said Shirota.

As UK Express pointed out, Japan’s relationship with the islands dates back to the 19th century, although Japan’s claim to them comes from the Okinawa review agreement of 1071.

Under the agreement, the U.S. gave Japan ownership of the islands, which Japan had previously handed over after World War II, said IBTimes.

The provocative actions of the CCP, described by Schneider as “aggressive and evil” are presented because CCP has now claimed about 90 percent of the South China Sea, despite the fact that Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan also dispute their share of the territory.

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