By Yu Tamura in Moscow
As of 5:00 p.m. (11:00 p.m. Japan time) on June 9, the Russian Ministry of Defense had not made any official announcement on the three naval vessels entering Japan’s contiguous waters near the Senkaku Islands.
TASS News Agency reported on June 9 that Japan “called Russia’s attention,” reporting that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated at a news conference on June 9 that, “First, Japan, together with the United States, will continue to demand that China refrain from taking similar actions that will heighten tension.”
Foreign warships are allowed to navigate in contiguous waters. Russia’s position on the Senkaku issue is that this should be resolved between Japan and China, and it is not siding with either country. Therefore, its action is seen to be different from its efforts to beef up defense in the Northern Territories area under its effective control and not interpreted as a move to apply pressure on Japan directly.
However, it is also possible that Russia had coordinated in advance with China in sending its vessels ahead of the Chinese warships because Russia and China are currently strengthening cooperation between their navies. With China increasingly at odds with Japan and the U.S. over maritime issues, Russia has been steadily enhancing cooperation with the Chinese navy in recent years, and this has become a major area of collaboration between the two countries. Since 2012, the two navies have conducted joint exercises in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea in spring and summer each year. This is increasingly being seen as a move to counter Japan and the U.S.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stated at the Asia Security Summit on June 5 that China is Russia’s “no. 1” partner in its active promotion of military cooperation in Asia and the Pacific. He said that “joint maritime exercises with China have attracted great attention,” stressing the significance of China-Russia naval cooperation.