Japan Deepening Involvement in the South China Sea
June 24, 2015 (EIRNS)–The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force sent a single P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, along with 20 people, to participate in a joint naval exercise with the Philippines Navy (which occurred simultaneously with joint US-Philippino naval exercise). The contingent was small, but it’s getting big play in both the Japanese and Western press because of what it is said to represent: that Japan is joining the US in the South China Sea. In theory, Japan’s fleet of P-3’s “could help the U.S. keep an eye on the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. Some experts think that’s a possibility in coming years,” reports the Associated Press. “It’s likely we will see Japan doing joint surveillance and reconnaissance in the South China Sea in the coming years,” said Narushige Michishita, a defense expert at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. “It is going to be with the U.S., Australia, the Philippines and others.”
Not everybody in Japan welcomes this prospect, however. “Such a move would raise tensions with China, with which Japan already has a major territorial dispute over islands farther north in the East China Sea,” AP notes. “It would face public opposition at home from those who want Japan’s military to avoid getting entangled in overseas disputes.”
The deployment, the second for Japan’s military to the Philippines, comes as a contentious debate over expanding Japan’s military role in the region has been opened in the Japanese Diet. National security bills that the government of Prime Minister Shinzo has put before the legislature would codify Abe’s reinterpretation of the pacifist constitution to allow Japan participate militarily in “collective defense” actions outside of its own waters and airspace.