Russia and China Send Warships Around Japan as Tension Simmers

A Russian flotilla comprising an anti-submarine destroyer and Chinese warships led by a guided-missile destroyer sailed into seas near Japan in recent days, increasing geopolitical tensions in the region.

Japan's Defense Ministry said as many as eight Russian and Chinese warships sailed into seas near Japan this week. While the Russian vessels were sailing through the Tsushima Strait, which separates Japan and South Korea, the Chinese warships were spotted near the Izu Islands, which are some 500 kilometers south of Tokyo.

Show of Force

"This is an obvious show of force from both Russia and China ... These activities are a major worry for Japan. Not least, tracking the movements of both Russian and Chinese military forces are a strain on the resources of the Japan Self Defense Forces," James Brown, associate professor of political science at Temple University in Tokyo, told CNN.

russian warship
Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier Wikimedia commons

China's increasing maritime activity around Japan and Russia's apparent support to China have been of great concern in Tokyo. On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said talks with China were important to bring about peace and stability in the region.

"It is important to maintain stable and constructive relations", Kishida said in Tokyo.

China has been conducting assertive military activity in the East and South China amid the backdrop of the dispute over East China Sea island known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China. Japan sees this as a direct threat to maritime freedom in the busy sea lane.

Japan Lodges Protest

The Japanese government formally communicated to China its protest against China setting up a new oil rig in the disputed area in the East China Sea.

In October, the Chinese and Russian warships coordinated their movements as they participated in military exercises around the Japanese archipelago. This time, however, Japan has not said the Russian and Chinese moves were coordinated.

Picture for representation
China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of South China Sea. Reuters

Ukraine and Taiwan Issues at Core

In another provocative gesture, the Chinese and Russian air forces carried out joint air patrols at a time when Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was hosting a summit of the leaders of the US, Australia and India. The air patrols were carried out over the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the western Pacific Ocean.

Japan is in an uneasy position with respect to its relationship with two military superpowers in the neighborhood. While China is angered over the Japanese stance over Taiwan's independence, Moscow is upset over Tokyo's support to Ukraine.