Chinese warships surround Japan, causing ‘great concern’

The Japanese government said this week that it spotted three Chinese warships “navigating an unusual route around the archipelago”, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Wednesday, noting that the sighting comes amid heightened tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over maritime territorial disputes.

“The Japanese Ministry of Defense said that two Chinese missile destroyers and a supply ship had on Monday [June 20] sailed southwest through an area southeast of Chiba Prefecture,” SCMP relayed, citing an original report from Kyodo News in Japan.

“They reportedly entered the Sea of ​​Japan from the Tsushima Strait and then headed for the Pacific Ocean via waters near Hokkaido last week. The warships then sailed into the waters east of the Miyagi County Sunday [June 19] and appeared to circumnavigate the Japanese archipelago,” according to the report.

The Chinese state enterprise world times confirmed on June 21 that the Chinese navy had deployed a fleet of warships to sail around the Japanese archipelago in recent days.

Detailing the route of the ships, the newspaper writes:

Led by the large Type 055 destroyer Lhasa, a flotilla of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy reportedly sailed northwest into eastern and southern Japan on Monday [June 20] and tuesday [June 21] after making transits through three strategic straits near the island country, and the ships would have to make a full circle around Japan if they want to continue on their way and return to base.

China’s naval drills near Japan come amid fresh friction between the two sides over Beijing’s recent exploration of gas fields in an area of ​​the East China Sea near Japan that is disputed by both sides . Japan’s Foreign Ministry said on June 20 that it had “confirmed that China has set up a new drilling facility for gas fields on the west side of a Tokyo-proposed median line separating exclusive economic zones of the two nations in the [East China] sea,” Kyodo News reported on June 23.

Tokyo fears that Beijing’s unchecked activities in the disputed area could lead China to extract resources underground under the Japanese side of an unofficial border separating territory between the two nations.

Senior diplomats representing China and Japan held a June 23 teleconference to discuss exploration of the gas field, with Tokyo expressing “strong concerns” to Beijing over the matter, Kyodo News reported. The two parties reportedly “agreed to continue communicating with a view to implementing the 2008 bilateral agreement on the joint development of gas in the region” during the talks, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Negotiations to delineate an official border between Japan and China in the disputed area of ​​the East China Sea have stalled for more than a decade. The 2008 bilateral agreement mentioned by the Japanese government on June 23 states that “the two parties, through joint exploration, will select sites for joint development by mutual agreement and conduct joint development on the sites based on the principle of mutual benefit”.

The unofficial agreement relates to petroleum resources from an established offshore oil and gas field in the area, which lies close to the also disputed Senkaku Islands. Japan administers the uninhabited islets while China claims them as its own territory due to their strategic location near natural resource stores and the sovereign island nation of Taiwan, which is also claimed by Beijing.

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Post expires at 10:48am on Monday July 4th, 2022