Chinese navy holds drills in Sea of Japan

Tensions rise amid Japanese reports of new pier for Chinese warships near disputed isles

BEIJING • China's navy has carried out drills in the Sea of Japan, the Chinese military's official newspaper said yesterday, describing the exercises as routine and done in accordance with international law and practice.

The news came as Japanese media reported yesterday that China has built a pier for warships at a site it is developing as a military base to the west of the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands.

Japan, citing tensions with China and growing worries over North Korea, will request a record defence Budget next year, Jiji Press reported yesterday, citing unnamed government sources.

The Chinese navy has increasingly been exercising in waters far from home as it seeks to hone its operational abilities.

Last year, five Chinese ships carried out exercises in international waters in the Bering Sea off Alaska.

The People's Liberation Army Daily did not say exactly where the latest drills took place, describing it only as a "certain part of the Sea of Japan".

Drill commander Xu Haihua said the exercises were part of routine annual arrangements and were meant to help improve the fleet's ability to fight far out at sea.

The paper said some of the ships involved were on their way back from the United States-hosted Rim of the Pacific exercise held in Hawaii.

"Exercises far out at sea in international waters are commonly done by navies of the world, and this year, our navy has many times organised fleets to carry out exercises far out in the Western Pacific," the newspaper said.

"This deep-sea exercise is part of annual training arrangements, is not aimed at any specific country, region or target, and accords with international law and practice."

The Sea of Japan is a strategic waterway bordered by Japan, Russia, South Korea and North Korea.

Tensions have escalated this month after what Japan called China's incursions into the waters of the Tokyo-controlled disputed islands.

In another sign of growing concerns, Japan said yesterday China has built a 70m-80m-long pier on Nanji Island, about 100km closer to the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands than Okinawa and its many US military bases.

Several warships have already been seen using the pier, which is planned as part of a new military base in the coastal Zhejiang province, Kyodo news agency reported.

Japanese media also revealed yesterday that Japan's defence ministry is seeking 5.168 trillion yen (S$69.4 billion) in spending for the fiscal year starting April 2017, up 2.3 per cent from this year's initial budget.

If approved by Parliament, the budget package would mark the fifth straight increase and a new record, Jiji Press said. Top business daily Nikkei and other media also carried similar reports, which a Defence Ministry spokesman said he could not confirm.

The budget plan includes strengthening Japan's ballistic missile defence system, following missile launches by North Korea this year, the reports said.

It also includes plans for a new land-to-sea missile as part of moves to beef up the defence of Japan's remote southern islands, the reports said. Those include populated ones as well as the uninhabited Senkaku or Diaoyu islands.

Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported earlier this week that Japan plans to develop a new land-to-sea missile with a range of 300km, far enough to reach the vicinity of the disputed islands.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese navy holds drills in Sea of Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe