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Japan sends warship through disputed waters as message to China

May 1, 2017 - JAPAN

Japan plans to send its biggest warship on a three-month voyage through disputed waters in the South China Sea, sending a message to China and stretching the limits of the country's pacifist post-war constitution.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the sea. Reuters notes that Japan does not claim any part of the waters, but has a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China Sea. Japan lodged a protest with the Chinese ambassador in Tokyo in Jun 2016, after a Chinese ship sailed close to the islands contested by both countries.

Reuters, which reported the May voyage by Japan, described it as the biggest show of Japanese naval force since World War II. It has designated the carrier, Izumo, as a destroyer because of the constitutional ban on offensive weapons.

China claims that it owns almost all of the disputed waters of the South China Sea, and has reinforced its claim there by constructing islands and building up its military facilities. Beijing's stance and the construction of the islands have fueled concern in Japan and the West about freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Exclusive: Japan plans to send largest warship to South China Sea, sources say (Reuters 14 Mar 2017)

Japan protests to China over ship in disputed waters (BBC 9 Jun 2017)

Date written/update: 2017-04-11