"Japan's largest warship will "patrol" the South China Sea," Reuters reported in its exclusive news on March 13. The news was confirmed by CNN on March 14, which cited an American source.
However, domestic military expert said that from a military perspective, Japan's Izumo helicopter carrier will post limited military threat in the South China Sea without air and naval support, but Japan's attempt to step up its military presence in that region on the pretext of dispatching the Izumo to participate in exercises via the South China Sea is unacceptable.
China should draw a red line for Japan's activities in the South China Sea, the expert added. CNN reported March 14 that a Pentagon official told it Monday that as part of the "Malabar" annual joint exercise, Japan's largest military vessel Izumo will have joint training with American and Indian naval ships in the coming summer.
According to CNN, " the Malabar military exercises have taken place on a rotational basis in the West Pacific and Indian oceans since Japan became a regular participant in 2007, and to get to the Indian Ocean, the shortest route will take the Izumo through the contested South China Sea".
Based on foreign media coverage, Izumo's destination this time is the Malabar Sea. It won't be the first time that the Japan Self-defense Forces passes through the South China Sea, but its duration of stay in the South China Sea will be longer than before, the expert expressed.
He also briefed that this may become the main model of Japan's voyage in the region in the future, namely "dragging its feet" on the excuse of passing. It may even hold some exercises to detect Chinese naval vessels and enhance its military presence in the South China Sea, attempting to force China to accept that as a fact. However, the expert said that China doesn't need to care too much about the normal voyage of Japanese vessels. By contrast, China only need to step up tracking and monitoring, but if they do anything unusual, China should strike back hard.
Another important purpose of Izumo is using its helicopters for anti-submarine operations. When it passes through the South China Sea, China should closely monitor its possible anti-submarine training and prevent it from threatening the PLA Navy submarines, added the expert.
CNN also claimed that the addition of the Izumo to the already large-scale exercise underscores that "Japan's anti-submarine warfare capabilities are key to attempting to deter Chinese expansion in the region".
But one Izumo isn't enough to make big waves, the expert stressed. As a helicopter carrier, Izumo has limited firepower, a deep draft and not so agile movement, so it isn't likely to enter the 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands and reefs without permission.
While, Izumo may not enter the South China Sea by itself this time. Since the vessels participating in the exercise will stay a long time in the region, it's possible that Japan and US will challenge China together.
"China must be fully prepared to fight back and draw a clear red line for Japan's activities in the South China Sea", the expert emphasized.
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