Tuesday’s Yomiuri, Mainichi, Nikkei and Sankei wrote that the MSDF announced on Monday that one of its submarines and three of its escort ships have conducted antisubmarine drills in the South China Sea. The papers wrote that this was the first time for the MSDF to announce its antisubmarine drills in the region, speculating that the announcement was intended to send a warning to China, which is stepping up its effective control of the South China Sea. According to MSDF sources, the submarine Kuroshio joined the helicopter carrier Kaga and two other escort ships in the region to conduct antisubmarine warfare exercises on Sept. 13. Following the drills, the Kuroshio called at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam on Monday. It was the first Japanese sub to call at Cam Ranh Bay. Sankei speculated that the port call may be intended to demonstrate Japan’s cooperation with Vietnam in view of its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.
In a related development, Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that Prime Minister Abe stated in a TV interview on Monday that the drills were aimed at improving the SDF’s capabilities and not intended to target a specific nation, and that Japan has been conducting antisubmarine drills over the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Geng Shuang commented on the MSDF’s antisubmarine drills by saying that countries outside the region should respect efforts by nations in the region to peacefully resolve issues concerning the South China Sea through dialogue and should not make moves to undermine the peace and stability of the region.