Ten naval vessels from China and Russia have sailed through a strait separating Japan’s main island and its northern island of Hokkaido, the Japanese government said, adding that it was closely watching such activities.
“The government is closely watching Chinese and Russian naval vessels’ activities around Japan like this one with high interest,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a regular news conference on Tuesday.
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“We will continue to do our utmost in our surveillance activity in waters and airspace around Japan.”
This was the first time Japan confirmed the passage of Chinese and Russian naval vessels sailing together on Monday through the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the Sea of Japan from the Pacific.
While the strait is regarded as international waters, Japan’s ties with China have long been plagued by conflicting claims over a group of tiny East China Sea islets. Tokyo has a territorial dispute with Moscow as well.
A Japanese defence ministry spokesperson said there had been no violation of Japanese territorial waters and no international rules were broken by the passage of the vessels.
Russia and China held joint naval drills in the Sea of Japan as part of naval cooperation between the two countries from October 14 to 17 involving warships and support vessels from Russia’s Pacific Fleet.
Moscow and Beijing have cultivated closer military and diplomatic ties in recent years at a time when their relations with the West have soured.