Tuesday 18 November 2008

China's submarine no threat to Japan

Japan's patrol airplane tailed after China's submarine
"China's submarine" became a hot topic among Japan's media and military since report said a Chinese submarine was spotted close to its coastline by Japanese marine forces.

According to Japanese media report, at around 8:00 a.m. November 12, a Japanese marine Self-Defense Forces' P-3C anti-submarine patrol airplane discovered a submarine sailing on the sea in the water area of Osumi Strait.

The submarine was about 40 km off Japan's coastline and around 18 km away from Japan's territorial waters. The crew of the plane saw that the submarine, flying China's National Flag, was sailing southwestward from northeast. Crew members on the Japanese patrol plane immediately reported the situation to the Defense Agency.

The Defense Agency then ordered the patrol airplane to tail after and keep the Chinese submarine under surveillance. Japan's patrol airplane kept circling over the Chinese submarine for several hours without discovering any unusual activities by China's submarine.

According to reports, Japanese Defense Agency was working intensively on countermeasures while the patrol plane was tailing China's submarine. After it was confirmed that the Chinese submarine posed no "threatening action", the Staff Department of Japan's Defense Agency released the news.

It is disclosed that Japan's Defense Agency quickly reported the situation to US forces stationed in Japan, the latter immediately sent out a reconnaissance airplane, which, together with Japan's patrol airplane, followed and supervised the Chinese submarine. But the Chinese submarine did not conduct any dialogs and contacts with the Japan-US reconnaissance plane. Soon afterwards, the Chinese submarine went under water and disappeared into the vast sea.

Japan's Defense Agency claimed that they did not know what the submarine was doing near Japan's water area.

Japanese and world media's guesses

Japanese and world media then paid great attention to the movement and "aim" of the Chinese submarine. Immediately after the release of the news by Japan's Defense Agency, all major Japanese newspapers, radios and TV stations reported the news, talking glibly about the "threat of the Chinese submarine". The Associated Press and Reuters also made several follow-up reports. In almost all these reports, analyses were focused on the aim and reason for movement of the Chinese submarine.

One saying was that the action was designed to keep close watch over Japan-US joint military exercise. An Aisahi Shimbun report said: "From November 7-16, Japan and the United States conducted military exercises in the vicinity of Kyushu Island and the surrounding water regions of Japan. The Chinese submarine emerged in the nick of the time of the military drill. It was quite possible that it was to make surveillance over the exercise." Malaysia's Sinchow Daily also said that the activity of the Chinese submarine might possibly be directed at the military exercise, the largest of its kind over the past 50 years.

Another saying was that China was "showing its strength" to Japan. An official with the research department of the "Japan International Forum" said: China was to indicate that it could deploy its submarine at a distant place and show that the Chinese armed forces had been steadily upgrading its (submarine) technology. He added that the Chinese submarine sailing swaggeringly "very close" to the Japan's water region was obviously aimed to "show its strength" to Japan.

An overseas media also pointed out that the Chinese mainland's submarine cruised the oceans, one of its missions was to frighten and stop the "Taiwan independence" forces. A Hong Kong "Sun Daily" report said that the mainland's submarine flying a National Flag set out on a "high-key" ocean voyage. Its prowling range had gone far beyond the distance from the mainland's southeast coast to the east of Taiwan Island. The newspaper said this was done for Chen Shui-bian to see.

Some military strategists approached the matter from another perspective. In the opinion of an analyst with a Canadian intelligence center, the fact that Chinese submarine was discovered only after it surfaced in the vicinity of a Japanese water region showed the improvement in the concealment function of the new-type submarine of the Chinese Navy.

Chinese submarine's navigation: reasonable and legal

Surprisingly, although discussion on the Chinese submarine among Japan's Self-Defense Forces and US troops stationed in Japan is still going, Japanese newspapers and news agencies has already stopped their coverage on the issue.

Analysis believe the reason for the phenomenon obviously was that Japan's Defense Agency had told major media organizations that the matter should be handled calmly in order not to affect the Japan-US joint military maneuvers. Experts also pointed out that this phenomenon also shows that the Chinese submarine's navigation on the Osumi Strait is reasonable and legal, which makes it impossible for the Japanese side to make rash charges.

Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesman Liu Jianchao on November 13 openly indicated that the Chinese submarine's entry into a nearby Japanese sea area is a normal training on the sea.

Chinese experts on the International Law of the Sea said that Japan's territorial waters are within the limit extending 12 nautical miles (about 22 km) outward from its coastline. The Chinese submarine was then 40 km away from Japan's coast, according to the stipulations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the place is an international water region, though it belongs to Japan's exclusive economic zone water area, foreign warships can navigate freely.

From the perspective of common international practice, there is nothing improper about the move. This is recognized even by Japan's Defense Agency and various major media organizations. Furthermore, the important straits and channels belonging to international water regions are of course the places where warships must sailing through. In addition, the Chinese submarine floated up on its own when it passed through the Osumi Strait and did not take any anti-control measures against Japan-US surveillance in the process of navigation. This implies that the Chinese submarine's navigation contains no hostility and is entirely normal training.

Japan is worried about China's "threat on the sea"

However, why some people in Japan were so sensitive to the normal training of the Chinese submarine? The security of surrounding water areas has always been a factor that affects the nerve of the Japanese.

As Japan is surrounded by waters, the ocean bears on the clothing, food, housing and transportation for the Japanese. Take food for an example. A survey shows one-third of foods on the dining table of the Japanese are seafood. The average annual consumption of aquatic products for a Japanese exceeds his or her weight, to reach more than 70 kg.

The importation and exportation of Japan's petroleum, minerals, foods and finished industrial products cannot be carried out without the surrounding seas. Based on such an oceanic concept, the Japanese government is extremely sensitive to the security of the surrounding water regions.

Statistics from the London International Strategic Research Institute show that the naval vessels of various countries are conducting very frequent activities in the East Asian water areas. The United States, Russia, Japan, the Republic of Korea have deployed a total of nearly one hundred submarines. Several dozen of them are often prowling in the vicinity of Japan. The Japanese government is very worried about the situation.

However, Japan was really oversensitive to the appearance of the Chinese submarine this time. A reporter made a random search on Japanese websites, and he was stunned by the result. One can find almost every move relating to China's national defense, even information on the maintenance of a Chinese warship was available.

The "Defense White Papers" issued by Japan's Defense Agency for several consecutive years all pointed out: The frequent appearance and disappearance of Chinese naval vessels in Japan's offshore constituted threats to Japan. So-called Japan's offshore includes the water areas near China's Diaoyudao Island, the Tsu Garu Strait, the Korean Strait and the Osumi Strait and several other international channels; while China's naval vessels even include China's icebreakers, oceanographic research ships.

For this reason, Japan's Self-Defense Forces have constructed an anti-submarine network with the largest density in the East Asian region, equipped with over 100 high-function anti-submarine patrol airplanes and numerous anti-submarine warships.

What is disturbing is that this network is "self-protection" in name, but does not stick to defense in fact. It was reported that in July this year, a P-3C anti-submarine patrol airplane of Japan's marine Self-Defense Forces flew very close to China's territorial waters.

An American expert on international issues said that as an island country, Japan's stress on the security of surrounding sea areas is understandable, but Japan is evidently oversensitive. It regards its neighboring countries as threat; on this basis, Japan has excessively developed its sea power, which, in turn, constitutes threat to its neighboring countries.

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