Sunday’s Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that the Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that the ten Chinese and Russian navy vessels that passed through the Tsugaru Strait on Oct. 18 also passed through the Osumi Strait located between Cape Sata and Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture toward the East China Sea on Oct. 22. This was the first time for the ministry to confirm a flotilla of Chinese and Russian vessels transiting the strait. According to the SDF Joint Staff Office, a fleet of five Chinese and five Russian navy vessels passed through the Tsugaru Strait on Oct. 18 to go from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific and later traveled southward through waters between Smith Island and Torishima Island of the Izu Islands. Although the flotilla passed through the Osumi Strait, it did not enter Japan’s territorial waters. The ASDF scrambled fighter jets in response to a Chinese vessel’s helicopter landing and takeoff operations in the area 130 km south-southeast of the Danjo Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture on Saturday morning.
Sankei speculated that the recent multinational exercises involving the United States, Japan, the UK, and Australia conducted in areas near Japan may have prompted China and Russia to take “unusual” actions. The paper added that some have noted that although there is no problem with foreign vessels transiting the Osumi Strait or the Tsugaru Strait in view of international law because these are international waters, the circling of the Japanese archipelago by Chinese and Russian vessels may have been intended to counter the recent joint exercises by Japan and its security partners.
Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that China’s Ministry of National Defense announced on Saturday that the navies of China and Russia jointly conducted patrols from Oct. 17-23. The Chinese said that a total of 10 vessels and 6 combat helicopters participated in the operations that were conducted in the Sea of Japan, the Western Pacific, and the East China Sea, but they abided by international laws and did not enter the territorial waters of other nations. They also conducted exercises using weapons. Sankei wrote that Russia’s Ministry of Defense separately announced on Saturday that it conducted joint patrol operations together with the Chinese from Oct. 17 through 23 in the Western Pacific, saying that the purpose of the patrols was to maintain the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific.