Japan monitors China warships near island

2012-10-17 10:01
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tokyo — Japan and China are trading a new round of criticism after Japanese military aircraft spotted seven Chinese warships in waters off a southern island not far from a chain of isles at the centre of a heated territory dispute. China said the ships were on a routine training mission.

The Chinese ships were sighted on Tuesday about 49km from the island of Yonaguni, in Japan's Okinawa prefecture (state), according to Japan's Defence Ministry. They were about 200km from a chain of small islands that have sparked a heated dispute between Japan and China.

The ships were believed to be returning to China after training in the Pacific. Japan's Defence Ministry on Wednesday said the ships were not headed for the disputed islands, but said it was the first time the Chinese navy has been spotted using the narrow sea passage near Yonaguni.

Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto said Japan is monitoring the ships' movement. Japan considers the area part of its contiguous waters, but it is not illegal for foreign vessels to transit them.

It is not unusual for the Chinese navy to transit waters around Okinawa en route to the Pacific, but they usually go through wider straits. The ships included frigates, a guided missile destroyer, a supply ship and two submarine rescue vessels.

Defence Ministry officials said the ships might have been trying to avoid an approaching typhoon.

Anger over nationalisation

China's Defence Ministry said the ships were on a scheduled cruising exercise and were acting in a manner that was "appropriate and legal".

Underscoring China's sharper stance, it also protested the scrambling of a Japanese military plane in the direction of the disputed islands, calling that a "gross violation" of Chinese sovereign rights.

"The Chinese military is closely following the actions of the Japanese side and demands Japan halt all actions complicating or escalating the situation," the ministry said in a short statement on its website.

Japan angered China last month by nationalising part of the chain of uninhabited East China Sea islands called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. The move sparked violent protests in China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tokyo has urged Beijing to "avoid any actions that would go counter to the mutual benefit".

Nearby Taiwan also claims the islands, which are uninhabited but surrounded by rich fishing grounds and possibly lucrative undersea energy deposits.

Showing off naval prowess

China and Japan have recently stepped up naval activities in the area around Okinawa because of the dispute, but there have been no clashes between their warships, which have generally stayed away from the disputed islands themselves.

Wary of missteps that could lead to a sudden escalation of tensions, the countries have instead sent less threatening coast guard ships. Over the past week, however, both have made a point of showing off their naval prowess.

Chinese websites were abuzz on Monday with photographs of navy pilots practicing touch-and-go landing exercises on China's first aircraft carrier. It wasn't clear when the pictures were taken, and they did not appear on the Defence Ministry's website or in official media.

The carrier was launched last month without aircraft or an accompanying battle group, and actual flight operations could be years away. But it is widely seen as a symbol of China's ambitions to be a leading Asian naval power, especially as it faces sharpening territorial conflicts with Japan and other countries.

Japan's navy, meanwhile, marked its 60th anniversary with a major exercise on Sunday. Japan also plans to hold a joint exercise with the US military later this year, reportedly using a scenario of taking a remote island back from a foreign intruder.

Asked how China sees the reported scenario, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said, "To maintain the peace and stability of Asia-Pacific is beneficial to all sides." He added: "Increasing tension is against the bigger trends of regional security, peace and the buildup of political and security trust. We reserve the right to take further action."

Fleet review

Defence Minister Morimoto declined to confirm the scenario or give other details.

In Sunday's exercise, about 40 ships — including state-of-the-art destroyers, hovercraft able to launch assaults on rough coastlines and new conventionally powered submarines — took part in Fleet Review 2012, the maritime equivalent of a military parade.

About 30 naval aircraft, mostly helicopters, also participated. For the first time, Japan's navy was joined by warships from the United States, Singapore and Australia. Representatives from more than 20 countries, including China, attended the event staged in waters south of Tokyo.

Read more on:    china  |  japan

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Millions of plastic particles in our food!

Scientists and researchers believe that almost five million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and it’s affecting our food.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Trying to keep time for your social commitments and friendships as well as taking care of work and health obligations can be a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.