Japanese local media have confirmed that a top official of the People’s Republic of China has said his country will respond with all available force to meet Japan, if it joined a planned military drills with the United States on the disputed South China Sea.
On July 12, 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague ruled that China’s nine-dash-line claim in the South China Sea, and its land reclamation activities on islets, are invalid and unlawful. The Philippines had dragged China to the PCA over the territorial dispute. But despite the ruling in favor of the Philippines, China has vowed to take all necessary measures available to protect its sovereignty over the area, revealing that it had the right to set up an air defense zone on the sea.
The Chinese Defense Minister, Chang Wanquan recently urged his country’s citizens to prepare for, what he described as the people’s war at sea. China has since been positioning and testing its nuclear weapons, and planning military drills on its waters with Russia. The United States has confirmed that China has tested an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which is capable of striking everywhere in the world within half an hour.
However, despite all these tensions building in the Far East, the United States has said it is planning a military exercise on the disputed sea, under a so-called Freedom of Navigation principle (FON). Observers say FON has been part of the United States’ policy under the Law of the Sea Convention since 1983. The United States is said to use the exercise to assert its navigation and over-flight rights and freedoms.
The United States, therefore, hopes to use its allies in the Far East including Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines to sail on the highly volatile South China Sea. And China believes this is a clear provocation.
According to Japanese media, the Chinese Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua told a top official of Japan in Tokyo that Japan will cross what China considers as a “red line,” if it goes ahead to sail with United States’ warships in the disputed South China Sea, near China’s artificially reclaimed islands.
A Japanese media outlet named Kyodo quoted Mr Yonghua as saying: “Japan should not take part in a joint military action with US forces that is aimed at excluding China in the South China Sea. China will not concede on sovereignty issues and is not afraid of military provocations.”
Already, there is a territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Tokyo-administered Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, which the Chinese claim as their own.
In mid-August 2016, Japanese media reported that China is continuing to expand its military infrastructure next to the disputed waters, erecting a military pier on Nanji Island, one of 52 islands in the Nanji chain that are part of China’s Zhejiang Province.
To counter this perceived Chinese threat, the Japanese are reportedly seeking a record defense budget of 5.16 trillion yen ($51 billion) for next year, strengthening their coast guard near the disputed waters with China.
It is said part of the funding will also be spent on neutralizing the recent North Korea’s perceived threat by deploying PAC-3 missile defense system, and the joint Japanese-United States production of the Block IIA version of the Standard Missile-3 system. Japan will also purchase an upgraded version of the F-35 stealth fighter from the United States.
On August 21, tensions in the Far East were heightened after four Chinese coastguard ships sailed into territorial waters surrounding the disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The Japanese foreign Ministry responded by issuing a protest statement saying: “Despite Japan’s repeated strong protests, the Chinese side has continued to take unilateral actions that raise tensions on the ground, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”
The Chinese Central Television later confirmed that China has successfully completed long-range combat drills in the East China Sea, with its famous East China Sea Fleet. It is said the fleet launched simulated attacks to improve the capability of continuous strikes at maximum range. The exercise also included air force simulation of air-to-ship missile launches against enemy vessels. The Chinese navy called the drill “routine” and in accordance with international law.
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