JAPANESE PATROLS TO THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

Wall Street Journal on June 25, 2015, reported that China has notched another gain in its inadvertent campaign to expand defense cooperation among its nervous neighbors. In a Journal interview published Thursday, Japan’s top military commander said Japanese forces may join U.S. troops in patrolling the South China Sea, where China has been aggressively staking territorial claims around crucial international waterways. Excerpts below:

“The area is of the utmost importance for Japanese security,” said Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano. “Because there is a lack of transparency, we are very concerned about China’s actions.”

China in recent months has built some 2,000 acres of artificial land atop reefs and shoals in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly island chain. Beijing insists the artificial islands are mainly for weather monitoring and other peaceful purposes, but it has placed artillery on at least one site and built runways that could host the full range of Chinese military aircraft.

Admiral Kawano’s disclosure comes as Japanese troops this week are conducting their second-ever joint exercises with the Philippine navy. To practice search-and-rescue missions around the Spratlys, Japanese P-3 patrol planes with Japanese and Philippine troops aboard have flown from Palawan Island, the Philippine province that lies within 100 miles of the disputed waters.

In separate drills nearby, other Philippine troops this week are training with Americans, who for the first time included a littoral combat ship, the USS Forth Worth, newly based in Singapore as part of Washington’s Asian “rebalance.” The U.S. and the Philippines last year signed a new defense agreement that could see U.S. Marines rotate through Palawan bases.

Malaysia this month said it would formally protest Chinese incursions into its 200-mile exclusive economic zone, including the anchoring of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel by Malaysia’s Luconia Shoals, near gas wells operated by state-owned Petronas. This represents a change, as Kuala Lumpur previously kept quiet about Chinese patrols near James Shoal, also within its exclusive economic zone.

Indonesia is beginning to raise its voice about Chinese incursions around its Natuna Islands. Vietnam, which saw China plant an oil rig in its waters last year, is on an arms-buying spree while expanding cooperation with the U.S., Japan, India and others. All of these countries could benefit from a new U.S. fund of $425 million to support Southeast Asian military modernization over the next five years. Japan is also boosting regional arms sales.

Japanese participation in South China Sea patrols would boost their effectiveness and underscore how Beijing’s behavior is alienating the region.

Comment by varldsinbordeskriget.wordpress.com: Taiwan sources are reporting that the Vietnamese military may be preparing to attack the Chinese facilities in the region with special forces. Vietnamese special forces will initiate attacks against Chinese targets including merchant ships, supply vessels, radar stations, ports and storage areas on smaller islands or reefs.

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