Japan denied disrupting recent Chinese military exercises in the west Pacific Ocean that prompted an official protest, the latest friction between Asia’s two biggest economies embroiled in a territorial dispute.
“It is not true that we carried out dangerous actions that interfered with the Chinese Navy’s exercises,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters in Tokyo today, adding that Japan had lodged a counter-protest with China. “We are paying close attention to the movements of the Chinese armed forces, including those of Chinese military vessels in seas around Japan,” Kato said.
The diplomatic row came as Japan today began an annual large-scale military exercise involving its ground, sea and air forces. The exercise, which runs to Nov. 18, will this year be focused on island defense around Kyushu and Okinawa, according to a document issued by the Self-Defense Forces last month.
China lodged a protest yesterday with Japan, saying its ships entered the area of China’s military exercises and disrupted its drills. The Chinese Navy announced its scheduled training there from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, while the Japanese entered the area on Oct. 25 and left three days later, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website yesterday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier this week he wouldn’t permit China to use force to resolve territorial spats, as the renewed presence of Chinese aircraft near disputed islands in the East China Sea led Japan to dispatch fighter jets. Tensions between the neighbors increased after Japan’s September 2012 purchase of three islands also claimed by China, with damage to trade and tourism ties and no summit between the leaders of the two countries for about 18 months.
China yesterday urged the Japanese to take action to “correct its mistakes” and stop its interference with normal military activities, the ministry said in the statement. It also said it reserved the right to take further action.
The Japanese training will include an amphibious landing on the uninhabited atoll of Okidaitojima, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Okinawa. A helicopter carrier will take part in the exercise, along with 34,000 personnel, according to a defense forces official who declined to give his name in line with military policy.