Japan drill to coincide with China war games

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, May 3, 2014
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Japan is to stage amphibious landing drills in the East China Sea, coinciding with war games China and Russia are holding near islands at the center of a territorial row between Beijing and Tokyo.

About 1,330 personnel, four naval vessels and aircraft from Japan's three armed services will be involved in exercises in the Amami group of islands and in waters east of Okinawa, the defense ministry said, adding they were intended to bolster Japan's ability to "defend islands."

The statement was issued on Thursday, hours after China's defense ministry said the Chinese and Russian navies will stage joint exercises "off Shanghai" in late May. The naval exercises will take place in waters northwest of the Diaoyu Islands.

Three Chinese coast guard ships yesterday sailed inside territorial waters off the islands for about three hours.

It was the third such incursion since United States President Barack Obama reasserted on April 24 that Washington would defend Japan under a military treaty if China initiated an attack in the tense dispute.

Beijing has already dismissed Obama's position, saying that the islands are China's inherent territory.

Chinese ships have regularly approached the islands since the Japanese government "purchased" some of them from so-called private owners in September 2012, reigniting a long-running territorial dispute.

The Japanese landing drills "to defend and recapture islands" run from May 10-27 and will focus on the tiny uninhabited isle of Eniya off Amami Oshima island, according to media reports.

"The defense ministry has been strengthening the capabilities of amphibious operations in response to China's maritime advances, and the landing drills ... are seen as a move to keep China in check," Japan's Kyodo news agency said.

The Chinese-Russian drills were officially described as "regular exercises" and come after the two countries held similar maneuvers last July off Vladivostok on Russia's far east coast. In April 2012, the two navies staged joint drills in the Yellow Sea.

China might want to use the drills to demonstrate its coordination with Russia, and keep Japan and the US in check, Kyodo said.

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