NEW DELHI: A Chinese navy spy ship tailed two Indian warships during the trilateral Malabar naval exercise in Japanese territorial waters, where ships of the US, India and Japan are participating, according to Japanese authorities.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko reportedly said that a Japanese P-3C patrol aircraft spotted the Dongdiao-class intelligence vessel sailing in territorial waters to the west of Kuchinoerabu Island at around 3.30 am (1830 GMT on Tuesday).
And the ship travelled on a southeasterly bearing and left Japan’s territorial waters south of the prefecture’s Yakushima Island around 5 am, Seko reportedly said. Trilateral maritime, with over 22 naval ships and 100 naval aircraft including nuclear submarine, are carrying out exercise in East China sea, few miles away from the disputed South China sea, with an aim to focus on deeper military ties and greater interoperability.
It was for the first time that a Chinese spy ship was detected in Japanese water since a submarine was spotted in 2004. The latest intrusion came less than a week after another Chinese naval vessel sailed near islands at the Centre of a Tokyo-Beijing sovereignty dispute in the East China Sea.
Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani reportedly said, “The Chinese military vessel moved in after an Indian ship sailed into Japan’s territorial waters as it participated in a Japan-US-India joint exercise.”
A senior Foreign Ministry official lodged a protest with the Chinese Embassy here. “We are concerned about the Chinese military’s recent activities,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said. Japanese officials said they are analysing China’s possible motives behind the two actions.
“The government will continue to exert every effort in warning and surveillance activities in the waters and airspace surrounding the country,” Seko said.
As to the spy vessel’s case today, the Defence Ministry said it entered the waters while tracking two Indian naval ships that were participating in ongoing Malabar naval drills.
In Beijing, Chinese officials defended the naval vessel’s entry into the waters, saying the passage was in line with the principle of freedom of navigation and international rules.