Updated 8:47 AM EST, Fri, Mar 05, 2021

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Japan to Increase South China Sea Patrols with US and Asian Allies

Japan and the US

(Photo : US Navy) The guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Kirisame (DD 104) in the South China, 2015.

Japan will move more towards confronting China in the South China Sea rather than in the East China Sea closer to home by announcing its navy will conduct more patrols in the disputed sea with the U.S. Navy and the navies of its regional allies.

Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada said Japan will increase its military presence in the South China Sea by launching a series of what it termed "training patrols" to support the U.S. and its Asian allies, especially Vietnam and the Philippines.

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The patrols will be similar in nature to the "Freedom-of-Navigation" operations regularly conducted in the South China Sea by U.S. Navy warships. China has refused to ratchet down tensions despite losing an arbitration case to the Philippines last July 12.

These training patrols planned by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will also see the participation of warships from the Republic of Korea Navy, said Inada during a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C.

CSIS is an American think tank that conducts policy studies and strategic analyses of political, economic and security issues throughout the world.

Japan will conduct bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional navies such as the Vietnam People's Navy and the Philippine Navy despite confusing signals emanating from Manila because of the erratic foreign policy of volatile Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. It will also engage in capacity building with these countries.

Inada said Japan remains concerned about China's refusal to abandon its claim to own most of the South China Sea. She also pointed out Japan's dispute with China over Japan's Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling in the South China Sea case filed by the Philippines concluded China has no legal basis to claim historic rights within the nine-dash line in the South China Sea. It also said China violated Philippine sovereignty by seizing three reefs within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Inada said that if the world condoned China's attempts to change the rule of law and allowed "rule bending" to succeed, the "consequences could become global."

"In this context, I strongly support the U.S. Navy's freedom-of-navigation operations, which go a long way to upholding the rules-based international maritime order," she said.

"Japan, for its part, will increase its engagement in the South China Sea through, for example, Maritime Self-Defense Force joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy and bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional navies," she said.

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