South China Sea Tensions Rise: Japan Conducts Exercise With Philippines

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As tensions mount over territorial disputes between smaller nations and China, Japan and the Philippines have conducted a joint maritime exercise in The South China Sea.  The Philippines are already partners with Japan when it comes to security, and they have expressed that they are impressed with Japan’s maritime abilities.

According a report in The Asian Shimbun [1]:  “The joint exercise was held on June 23 and 24 in the South China Sea using an airport on Palawan Island in the western Philippines.

The location of the exercise indicated that Japan also wanted the P-3Cs to impress, or at least send a message to, another country.

“(The exercise) shows Japan’s strong concern about China,” a Japanese government official said.

China is currently building manmade islands in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in an apparent bid to strengthen its sovereignty claims over the isles, which are also claimed by the Philippines and other countries.

Japan has its own territorial issue with China, over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The Abe administration, in tandem with the United States, is strengthening alliances around Asia, including the Philippines, in a bid to keep China in check.”

As China continues to build islands on coral reefs that are claimed to be owned by many different countries, Japan and the US have been putting more and more pressure on China to stop building.  The man-made islands are being turned into massive military complexes, according to exclusive reports by CNN [2].

According to CNN [2]:

“Last year, China stepped up land reclamation on several reefs in contested waters close to the Spratly Islands (called Nansha by China), alarming its Asian neighbors. 

The United States says that China has reclaimed some 2,000 acres — 1,500 football fields — in the past 18 months and has called for an “immediate and lasting”halt to the island building. 

In May, a U.S. surveillance plane carrying a CNN crew flew over some of China’s artificial islands, triggered eight warnings from the Chinese navy to back off. 

The South China Sea is the subject of numerous rival — often messy — territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing sovereignty of several island chains and nearby waters.

The areas in dispute include fertile fishing grounds and potentially rich reserves of undersea natural resources.

China reiterated that its construction did not target any other countries or affect freedom of navigation by sea or air.”

The initial report from The Asian Shimbun [1] goes on to say:

“‘In the East China Sea, Japan and the United States have been blocking China’s advances through integrated efforts,’ a senior MSDF officer said. ‘The two countries must demonstrate close cooperation in the South China Sea as well.’

However, a high-ranking Defense Ministry official said such a dispatch would be ‘unrealistic’ because the fleet of P-3Cs has been preoccupied with patrols around the Senkaku Islands to prevent Chinese ships from entering Japanese waters.

‘We can hardly deploy our resources as far as to the South China Sea,’ the official said.

In any event, the Philippines is looking to Japan and the United States as mentors.

Jonas Lumawag, colonel of the Philippine Naval Air Group, told reporters on Palawan Island that the Philippine military wants to develop relations with Japan’s SDF.

Under the scenario of the joint exercise, a fishing vessel sent out a distress call, P-3C patrol aircraft searched for it and conveyed information to vessels of the Philippine Navy.

Hiromi Hamano, an MSDF commander who led the Japanese contingent in the Philippines, emphasized that the purpose of the exercise ‘is search and rescue at the time of disasters.’

The roar of the P-3C engines echoed around the palm tree-surrounded airport on Palawan Island before departing to sea areas in the South China Sea about 80 kilometers to 180 km to the west. Several tens of kilometers further to the west are the Spratly Islands.”




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