China finally got around to responding to Japan’s planned tour of the South China Sea with the helicopter carrier Izumo, its largest warship. The Chinese response was predictably unpleasant, as reported by Reuters.
“If Japan persists in taking wrong actions, and even considers military interventions that threaten China’s sovereignty and security… then China will inevitably take firm responsive measures,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.
China said on Tuesday that it was waiting for an official word on why Japan plans to send the warship on the tour through the South China Sea, but that it hoped Japan would be responsible.
Hua did not say on Thursday if China had received confirmation of the plan, but said that the South China Sea issue did not involved Japan and that the country should “reflect deeply” on its “disgraceful” past invasion of the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
China routinely insists “non-claimants” should not interfere with the South China Sea territorial dispute. In addition to China, this dispute prominently involves Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brunei, but not the United States or Japan.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian Foreign Minister has backed “the right of all nations and their vessels to traverse international waters according to international law,” including Japan’s right to sail its largest warship through the region.
The Herald quotes speculation from Macquarie University’s Ben Schreer that the Izumo’s proposed tour of the South China Sea is meant as a signal to the Americans, as much as to the Chinese. Japan, he argues, is letting the Trump administration know “Japan is, within limits, willing to do more” and “getting American reassurance in return.”
While China complains about Japan’s warship, it’s moving full speed ahead with its program to develop and militarize the disputed islands. UPI relays a report from Taiwan that China appears to be “building a large port in the disputed Paracel Islands,” also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
“China recently expanded a runway on Woody Island and may have deployed surface-to-air missiles to assert its military presence in the area,” UPI adds.