has reported that six countries including Japan, China, South Korea and the United States
are to hold a series of joint maritime exercises, just weeks after Tokyo and Seoul were locked in a tense stand-off over some tiny disputed islands.
Japan, China, South Korea, the United States, Canada
and Russia will launch naval exercises in the Japan Sea and East China
Sea to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction, starting on Saturday, Japanese Coastguard officials
The officials said it would be the first time China took
part in such joint naval exercises.
In October 2004, Japan hosted
the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), Asia's first naval exercise, in the backyard of North Korea.
Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand are the only countries from the Asia-Pacific to publicly support the PSI, although the group says it has the support of more than 60 nations.
China and South Korea have
been reluctant to join the initiative, apparently to avoid offending North Korea
- the reclusive communist state with nuclear ambitions that is an unspoken target of the PSI.
The Japanese Coastguard officials would not say whether the planned joint maritime exercises were focused on North Korea.
The joint exercises will also be held in the East China Sea where
Japan and China are in dispute over gas fields and sovereignty of a separate group of small islands.