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Iran Press TV

Japanese submarine conducts first naval exercises in South China Sea

Iran Press TV

Mon Sep 17, 2018 09:18AM

A Japanese submarine has for the first time joined a naval drill in the South China Sea, in a move likely to anger Beijing which claims most of the disputed waters.

Japan's Defense Ministry said on Monday that submarine Kuroshio had joined three Japanese warships, including the Kaga helicopter carrier, as part of a naval drill in the South China Sea, last week.

A spokesperson for the ministry said it was the first time a Japanese submarine had conducted drills in waters southwest of the China-administered Scarborough Shoal.

The exercise, which involved the submarine trying to evade detection, was conducted away from island bases constructed by China in the contested sea.

"A drill in the open sea is a justified act based on the 'freedom of navigation' stipulated in international law," a government official said.

However, it could still anger Beijing because submarines represent a greater potential danger to shipping than surface vessels.

Asked about Japan's drills, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing "urges the relevant external country to respect the efforts made by regional countries to resolve the South China Sea issue through talks."

"Act with caution and don't take any acts that could damage peace and stability in the region," Geng Shuang added.

Japan's naval maneuvers came after a British Royal Navy amphibious assault ship, HMS Albion, sailed close to islands claimed by China in the South China Sea late last month to exercise what it calls "freedom of navigation" rights.

Experts say the move was a clear indication of Britain's support for the US, which has carried out similar missions in the past and asked its allies to follow its strategy.

China claims sovereignty to most of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in shipping trade passes annually, despite competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing and Tokyo are engaged in a separate territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

The US and its extra-regional allies side with China's rivals in both territorial rows.

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