On June 23rd, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said that a foreign submarine that had been detected near southwestern Japanese islands in the previous week is suspected to be Chinese.
Japan rarely makes statements such as this, and especially for a submarine that didn’t intrude into territorial waters.
Kono said that Japan has confirmed the submerged submarine was traveling from the northeast of Kagoshima Prefecture’s Amami-Oshima Island to the west of Yokoate Island, moving “in the direction of China” between June 18th and 21st.
“Taking into total consideration the various information we’ve obtained thus far, we assumed that the submarine belongs to China,” Kono said, adding the vessel did not violate Japanese territorial waters.
According to Kono, his decision to disclose the information was related to the Japan-controlled, but contested by China Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
“In addition to conditions in the East and South China seas, we’ve seen various events (regarding China), including its rapid military budget increase, rising tensions with India and pressure on Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems,’ so we need to infer clearly the intention of the Chinese Communist Party amid these situations,” Kono said.
The Defense Ministry said it continues to analyze the case as an abnormal action of navigating through such a narrow contiguous zone between the two islands just about 60 kilometers apart, sandwiched by their territorial waters each stretching around 22 kilometers.
A Japanese “destroyer”— the helicopter-carrier Kaga—along with a P-1 patrol plane reportedly detected the submarine within 24 miles of Amami-Oshima island, near Okinawa in southern Japan. For two days Kaga and patrol planes tailed the submarine until it finally left Japanese waters.
The submarine “may have tested Japanese and U.S. anti-submarine warfare capabilities,” an SDF source said.
In January 2018, Tokyo announced it had detected a Chinese nuclear-powered attack submarine near the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands. The uninhabited islands in the East China Sea are also claimed by Beijing, which calls them Diaoyu, and Taiwan, which calls them Tiaoyutai.
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