Japan to join USA in South China Sea patrols

Saturday, 24 Sep, 2016

Russian Federation and China have commenced the active phase of their joint eight-day naval drills in the disputed South China Sea amid tensions with the USA, which is expanding its military presence in the region.

"Japan will increase its engagement in the South China Sea, such as, for example, joint training exercises with the USA and regional navies", she declared during a speech delivered earlier this week to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

The two nations typically engage in annual maritime drills; the ones now ongoing are considered the biggest yet and are taking place in the South China Sea, off the Chinese coast.

At a lecture in Washington, Inada strongly endorsed the patrol activities of USA military vessels around the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea.

The conflict between Japan and China has been rising due to "China's incursions into the waters of the Tokyo-controlled disputed islands".

She is a frequent visitor to Yasukuni Shrine, seen by many in China as well as South Korea as a symbol of Japan's past military aggression in Asia.

Inada stressed the importance of upholding worldwide law in the South China Sea, saying that if "rule-bending" is permitted to go unchallenged, the "consequences could become global". The Spratly Islands, or Spratlys, comprise more than 750 islets, atolls, and reefs, and lie off the coastlines of Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and China, with all the claimants having their own national names for the archipelago.

Japan will also help build the capacity of coastal states in the busy waterway, its defence minister said last week during a visit to Washington.

In July, an worldwide arbitration court invalidated several of China's territorial claims in the South China Sea in a case brought by the Philippines.

As regards Japan's attempt to amend its postwar constitution, increasing its military engagement in the South China Sea also serves as an exchange for Washington's support for Tokyo.

For its part, Japan is also in a dispute with China over claims to territory in the East China Sea. The "Joint Sea 2016" drill will go ahead between September 12 and 19 in the South China Sea, off Guangdong. "Unfortunately, what China has been doing recently in the East China Sea and South China Sea is just that", she asserted. The door for communication is still open, Inada concluded her presentation saying. "We continue to explore ways to enhance U.S. -Japan cooperative efforts to contribute to the security and stability of the region".