TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force plans to send one of its submarines to the Philippines for a port call next month to Subic Bay, a Defense Ministry source said Sunday.
While the envisaged voyage is aimed at training MSDF officers and fostering goodwill with the Philippines, Japan is keen to help Southeast Asian countries improve their surveillance capabilities in the South China Sea where China is pursuing militarization.
The vessels are scheduled to cross Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, and dock at Subic Bay, north of Manila, in April, according to the source.
The destroyers will then proceed to make a port call to Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.
The Japanese government is also considering leasing a number of MSDF TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippines, according to government sources.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has competing territorial claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. (The Manaichi)
Japanese submarine to visit Philippines
A Japanese submarine will visit the Philippines for the first time in 15 years, along with two warships that will then sail on to Vietnam, in a show of support for nations opposed to China’s ambitions in the West Philippine Sea, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Japanese submarine, which is used for training, and the destroyers will arrive in the Philippines in April. The escort vessels will later sail to Vietnam’s strategic Cam Ranh Bay base on the West Philippine Sea, the source said.
“It sends a message. It is important for Japan to show its presence,” the person with knowledge of the plan said on Monday, March 7, 2016. He asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
A Japanese Ministry of Defense spokesman declined to comment on any submarine visit but said the navy normally conducted training voyages in March and April.
“But we are still in the planning stage so are unable to provide details,” he said.
The visits were first reported by Japanese media, including the Sankei newspaper, on March 6.
Asked about the visits, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Japan occupied the Spratly Islands during World War Two so China was on “high alert” for Japan’s military moves there.
“The cooperation of relevant countries should benefit regional stability and should not be directed at third parties or harm another country’s sovereignty or security interests,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Of the countries bordering the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, the Philippines and Vietnam are most opposed to China expanding its influence in the region by building bases on reclaimed islands.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had not received any official notification of a visit by a Japanese submarine, a military spokesman said, though a visit to the Subic Bay naval base was expected.
“Informally, we know a Japanese submarine is visiting Subic in April,” said the AFP spokesman, Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla.
Rather than confronting China in such a direct way, Japan instead wants to build the capacity of nations in the region to improve their surveillance of Chinese forces. Japan’s Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani is due to travel to the Philippines in April to discuss cooperation.
Japan has already offered to supply the Philippines with aircraft that will help bolster patrols over the disputed sea. Japan wants to give the Philippines a handful of Beechcraft TC-90 King Air training planes that could be fitted with basic surface and air surveillance radar.
The Philippines has also asked the United States to hold joint naval patrols.
Japan and Vietnam agreed in November to hold their first joint naval exercise.
The United States has no claim on the West Philippine Sea and said it takes no sides, though it has been highly critical of China’s assertiveness and said it will protect freedom of navigation. (Reuters)
The Uzushio submarine of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) bursts to the surface during a fleet review at Sagami Bay, off Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, October 18, 2015. (Reuters/Toru Hanai)