China announced Tuesday that it was expecting an official message from Japan regarding its intention to deploy its largest naval vessel on a three-month cruise around the South China Sea, while hoping that the reason was sensible.
Beijing lays claim to almost the entirety of the disputed territory and the Chinese military’s efforts in reinforcing its presence in the area has caused apprehension in the United States and its ally Japan. In response, the U.S. has been conducting regular air and sea patrols to safeguard freedom of navigation.
The relatively new Japanese Navy helicopter carrier Izumo has scheduled goodwill visits to Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. It will then participate in the Malabar joint naval maneuvers in the Indian Ocean with units from the United States’ and Indian navies.
During a daily news briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, spokeswoman Hua Chunying remarked that she had no idea of the warship’s itinerary in the region, or whether it had other intentions.
“We have not yet heard what Japan says officially,” she said. “If it’s only a normal visit, going to several countries, and passing normally through the South China Sea, then we’ve got no objections, and we hope this kind of normal exchange between relevant countries can play a role promoting regional peace and stability.”
“But if going to the South China Sea has different intentions, then that’s a different matter,” Hua further said.
She also adds that Japan has recently been agitating the South China Sea dispute, but Beijing wished that Tokyo could take part in fostering peace and stability.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and Vietnam claims portions of the resource-rich territory, where approximately $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes through.
Japan and China’s area of dispute are a group of uninhabited islands called the Senkakus in the East China Sea.