Tokyo has revealed its plan to send a warship on a three month tour through the contested waters of the South China Sea. Reports suggest the fresh bearing of teeth comes as Beijing attempts to buff-up its claim to sovereignty over the region, of which some seven nations claim a degree of ownership.
China’s increasing military presence in the sea has sparked fears among western powers, as well as Japan, who has famously tried its hand at pacifism, though now seems to be moving towards a strongman position.
The US has particularly has fretted over China’s restricting movement in the sea, as an estimated $3.37trillion (£2.5trillion) worth of global trade passes through the straits – the US not wanting this to fall unevenly into the hands of the Communist state.
Now, Japan is planning on sending its 816ft Izumi helicopter carrier through the waters, commissioned only two years ago, which will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
It will then go on to join the Malabar trilateral naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.
It will leave Japan in May and return to Japan in August 2020.
Sources claim it is the country’s biggest show of naval force in the region since the Second World War.
A source talking to Stock Daily Dish said: “The aim is to test the capability of the Izumo by sending it out on an extended mission.
“It will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea.”
Japan does not in any way have claim to the waters.
It does, however, have a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China Sea.
Japan is said to want to invite Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte aboard the ship.
It comes as the Philippines gradually moves away from China, pursuing an alliance with the US.
When asked about his view on the Japanese warship visit during a press conference, he said: “I have invited all of them.
“It is international passage, the South China Sea is not our territory, but it is part of our entitlement.”
On whether he would visit the warship personally, he left little the imagination, and said: “If I have time.”
Japan’s decision to intervene in the battle of rhetoric comes as US president Donald Trump ramps up the intensity of US-China relations.
Repeatedly has the US shouted-down the continued emergence of man-made islands in the South China Sea – artificial landing points created by China in an attempt to militarise the region.
The US fears the construction of the islands might restrict the freedom of movement that is currently enjoyed in the region.
The Izumo can operate up to nine helicopters and has been compared to a US Marines assault carrier, in addition to holding several offensive weapons which has enabled the ship to carry the definition as a destroyer.