Foreign submarine enters Japan's contiguous zone

Cheryl Sanders
January 13, 2018

Tokyo purchased three of the islets from a private owner in September 2011, sparking anti-Japan protests in dozens of Chinese cities and a boycott of Japanese products.

Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, met with Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua at the Foreign Ministry to express grave concern about the move, the ministry said in a statement.

The Chinese vessel, identified as a Jiangkai 2-class frigate, was spotted on Thursday just beyond Japanese waters near the contested islands that are known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China, Japan's defence ministry said.

Defense ministry slams Japan for sensationalizing legitimate Chinese naval action

Relations between China and Japan have shown signs of improvement in recent months after their leaders both gained fresh mandates and domestic support at the end of previous year. They are controlled by Japan but claimed also by China.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile interceptor system Aegis Ashore, to be deployed in Japan, could be used to intercept Chinese cruise missiles, a statement that may not be well received in Beijing.

Located around 150 km northeast of Taiwan, the uninhabited Senkaku Islands have an area of about 7 sq km and are said to possibly be rich in marine and energy resources.

Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe say it's a fresh start for China and Japan.

In 2004, the government ordered an SDF maritime security operation after a Chinese nuclear submarine intruded into Japanese waters around the Saki-shima island chain, southern Japan. The sub exited the contiguous zone and headed toward the Senkakus on Thursday morning. It left Thursday afternoon. A defense ministry spokesman declined to discuss the measures being taken. Spokesman Lu Kang told a daily press briefing that China's navy had simply been tracking and monitoring two MSDF vessels in the waters near the Senkakus.

"The Diaoyutai Islands are a natural part of Chinese territory", Lu said, adding Japan began the provocations.

Maritime confrontations and jet interceptions between China and Japan have become commonplace in recent years, especially around the Senkakus.

Though the Japanese Defense Ministry has not said the submarine was Chinese, the circumstances suggest that it was likely a PLAN vessel.

Thursday was the first time a Chinese military vessel had entered that area since June 2016.

But on Thursday, "the submarine was ultimately sailing through to the East China Sea", he said, adding that "the decision to enter the contiguous zone seems to have been made on the spot".

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