Japanese submarine joins drill in South China Sea
The Japanese submarine Kuroshio joined a naval drill in the hotly disputed South China Sea in mid-September 2018, marking the first time such a craft had participated in a drill there. The exercise also expanded Japanese activity in the region claimed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and other nations, Reuters reported.
The Kuroshio joined other Japanese warships, including the helicopter carrier Kaga, which was on a two-month tour of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, a spokesman for Japan’s Ministry of Defense told Reuters.
The South China Sea has become a prominent hot spot in recent years as the PRC has built artificial islands on underwater reefs, then turned them into military bases. From those bases, Chinese forces on naval ships and in monitoring stations routinely challenge foreign aircraft and vessels as they traverse the region.
The PRC now claims most of the South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also stake claims to parts of it, as does Taiwan.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy criticized the PRC’s moves in the region, claiming that the PRC’s constructing and militarizing outposts in the South China Sea imperils free trade, threatens the sovereignty of other countries and endangers regional stability.
Japan conducted the military exercise, which involved the submarine trying to evade detection, away from the controversial island bases built by the PRC in the region, Reuters reported. However, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman urged Japan to “act with caution.”
The U.S. Navy routinely conducts freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea and has supported other nations in their efforts to do the same in the waterway, through which U.S. $3 trillion of ship-borne trade passes each year.
Japan’s JS Kaga, and the destroyers JS Inazuma and JS Suzutsuki, along with the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and guided-missile destroyer USS Milius, pictured, conducted an exercise in the South China Sea on August 31, 2018.
Also in August, a British Royal Navy amphibious assault ship, the HMS Albion, sailed close to the Paracel Islands claimed by the PRC in the South China Sea to exercise its rights to freedom of navigation, Reuters reported. The PRC protested the United Kingdom’s operation, sending aircraft and a naval vessel to meet the British ship. The situation did not escalate further, Reuters reported.