Joint war games by the US, Japan and India near the East China Sea are likely to “create frictions” in the disputed waters, a Chinese military expert says.
The first phase of the drill kicked off on Friday in Japan’s southwestern city of Sasebo, with the the second stage due to start on June 14 off the Okinawa Island.
Chinese military expert Du Wenlong said Saturday that the drill is aimed at the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls Senkaku, “to make the maritime and air space situations of the East China Sea worse.”
During the maneuvers, modern military equipment will be used, with Japan’s warships practicing submarine hunting and anti-aircraft defense, military sources said.
“If the three countries mount their advanced equipment in the region, their purposes are definitely to create more frictions in the disputed area,” Du said.
The expert also said the trilateral military maneuvers can also be “a threat to China’s military activities in its offshore areas.”
China has repeatedly criticized US military presence in the region and suspects such drills are part of efforts to contain Beijing.
The drill, known as Exercise Malabar and launched for the first time in 1992, used to be an annual military event between the US and India till 2015 when Japan joined it.
Japan officially joined the war games for the first, a move seen as a reflection of Tokyo’s growing militarism and and its raising of the ante in the territorial dispute with China.
The two countries have been at loggerheads over the East China Sea islands for many decades, with each side claiming the entire maritime region as their own.
Tokyo has reinforced its southwestern island chain with radar stations and anti-ship missile batteries. The area is home to the biggest concentration of US military personnel in Asia, effectively blocking China’s east coast access to the Western Pacific.
China claims most of the South China Sea, despite overlapping claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, which all enjoy military ties with the United States.
Officials in Beijing called on Washington on Tuesday to play a constructive role in safeguarding peace in the disputed region.
On Friday, an official at Chinese Embassy in the US sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal, in response to an article titled “South China Sea Challenge”, saying China was acting within its sovereignty rights.
Embassy spokesman Zhu Haiquan refuted the article’s claim that China’s territorial ambition was the root of the South China Sea disputes, saying that the origin of the dispute is the illegal seizure and occupation of Chinese territory by other countries.
Zhu said the moves suggested by the article were “reckless and alarming,” adding US military operations in the region could do nothing but fuel tension.