Japan Considering Patrols with US in South China Sea

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

April 30, 2015

Image: U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center

Image: U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center

 Japan may join the United States in air patrols in the South China Sea in response to China’s growing intent to make good on land claims, according a report in Reuters. 

Japan's military is considering joining the United States in maritime air patrols in the South China Sea in response to China's increasingly assertive pursuit of territorial claims.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Washington to discuss his plans for Japan to take on a wider security role beyond the direct defense of its home islands. The talks resulted in the two countries unveiling new guidelines for defense. 
Japan could join US patrols in the South China Sea, or operate patrols in rotation from the Japanese island of Okinawa on the edge of the East China Sea, the Japanese source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. 
While the plans so far have only been discussed among the Japanese military, any move to begin patrols would need civilian approval. 
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama accused China of “flexing its muscles” to advance its maritime claims against Asian neighbors and assured Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the US commitment to defend Japanese territory, including tiny islands in dispute with Beijing.
Obama said a strong US-Japan alliance should not be seen as a provocation to China, but he sought to put to rest any Japanese doubts on whether Washington would stand by Tokyo in a possible confrontation with Beijing.
“I want to reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute,” Obama said.
China has already begun building man-made islands on disputed reefs, which Washington and Tokyo worry will become military bases to police the area. 
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Beijing is concerned about who this post-Cold War arrangement is aimed at, especially as the US says its defense alliance with Japan extends beyond Japanese waters into both the South and East China Seas and the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkakus, as Tokyo calls them.
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