March 8 (UPI) -- Japan may not be ruling out troop deployment to the disputed Senkaku Islands if conflict arises with rival forces, according to a recent press report.
A Japanese official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the South China Morning Post Tokyo will not tolerate Chinese breaches of Japan-claimed territory, after Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japanese ships will be allowed to fire at foreign boats "preemptively."
"Under our domestic law, the self-defense forces can use weapons as law enforcement against unlawful activities on behalf of our coast guard if the Chinese coast guard enters our territorial waters including ... the Senkaku Islands without permission," the Post's source said.
Japanese wariness of Chinese activity in the East China Sea has increased after China enacted a law in February that permits the Chinese coast guard to use firepower against boats that enter Chinese-claimed waters. China claims the Senkaku or Diaoyutai Islands as its own and has blamed Japan for "complicating the situation."
Recent developments, including the presence of a Chinese vessel equipped with an automatic cannon, also may have prompted Japan's decision to allow Japanese ships to use firearms.
The United States has confirmed American commitment to a treaty with Japan that applies to the Senkakus in the event of a foreign attack.
On Friday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported U.S. troops in Japan were planning to conduct an emergency supply drill around the disputed islands, but the event was allegedly canceled due to bad weather.
The drills, which would have been conducted by the U.S. military alone, would have included a check on the feasibility of an ammunition or supply drop from a cargo plane that could then be picked up at sea, the report said.
U.S. analyst Sheila Smith told the Post China's "growing assertiveness" is placing Japan and the United States on alert.
"Chinese calculations should take [the U.S.-Japan] alliance commitment into consideration, but it is not clear if they are," Smith said. "Misreading intentions again could be very dangerous."