Japan Conducts Submarine Drill in South China Sea
Japan has conducted its first peace-time submarine drill in the South China Sea.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force submarine Kuroshio, commanded by Captain Yasuteru Ueta, along with the helicopter carrier Kaga and two destroyers, Inazuma and Suzutsuki, conducted the drill last Thursday and then made a port call at Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay earlier this week. It was the first call by a Japanese submarine at the strategically important port since World War II.
In response to the drill, China has urged countries outside the region to behave with caution and refrain from activities that undermine regional peace and stability. "The situation in the South China Sea has cooled down and is improving," said Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, reports China Daily. "We urge countries outside the region to respect efforts of regional countries in peacefully solving the South China Sea issue through dialogue."
Relations between the two nations are generally seen as positive: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month.
The exercise came after the Royal Navy amphibious transport dock, HMS Albion, conducted a freedom of navigation patrol in waters near the Paracel Islands, claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, in the South China Sea in late August. This patrol prompted a protest from China.
The U.K. and Australia have agreed to strengthen military cooperation, and the new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to be deployed to the Pacific in 2020. She will sail side by side with Australian navy ships. Australia is yet to conduct a freedom of navigation operation in the region, but earlier this month the ABC News reported that China's top military envoy to Australia said it was up to Australia to decide whether to challenge China's claim to the South China Sea, saying freedom of navigation for aircraft and ships has never been a problem in the South China Sea. Earlier this month a Chinese warship was invited to Australia for the first time to take part in the war games Exercise Kakadu.