Chinese navy conducts military exercise in East China Sea amid raging tussle with Japan

BEIJING – The Chinese navy conducted a military exercise in the East China Sea on Friday in the midst of a raging tussle with Japan over the Diaoyu islands in the area. The exercise, which is bound to intensify the conflict, involved 11 ships, eight aircraft and 1,000 naval personnel.

Beijing is also furious over the visit of Japanese lawmakers including two Cabinet ministers to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war heroes regarded as war criminals in China. China said its fishery administration and marine surveillance agency had conducted a “routine exercise” on Friday. But the drills conducted by the navy showed it was getting ready to obstruct entry of Japanese naval ships in the area around Diaoyu Islands, which China considers to be its territory.

The drill included simulations of illegal entry, obstruction, harassment and intentional interference by foreign vessels when Chinese ships of the fishery administration and marine surveillance agency patrolled, an official statement said.

The Chinese exercise comes soon after Japanese navy observed its 60th anniversary with a major exercise involving about 40 ships including state-of-the-art destroyers and hovercraft last Sunday. Warships from the US, Singapore and Australia joined Japan’s exercise. Japan also plans a joint exercise with the US later this year.

A Chinese government statement said that the purpose of the drills was to improve coordination between the navy and administrative patrol vessels as well as sharpening their response to emergencies in order to safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests.

State TV footage showed a frigate, a fighter jet and some helicopters participating. It showed the vessels and aircraft operating near shore, not on the high seas or close to the disputed islands.

Both China and Japan have been flexing their muscles for the past weeks since Tokyo angered Beijing by nationalizing some of the islands in the East China Sea. The islands are also being claimed by Taiwan. The islands are uninhabited but surrounded by rich fishing grounds and possibly lucrative undersea energy deposits.

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