TOKYO — The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has for the first time sent a submarine to train in the contentious South China Sea.
The vessel was part of an anti-submarine exercise last Thursday involving Japanese surface ships, a Japanese military spokesman said. It was the first time a JMSDF submarine had trained in those waters.
The submarine Kuroshio was joined by the JS Kaga, carrying five helicopters, and the destroyers JS Inazuma and JS Suzutsuki, which are on a two-month training mission in the Indo-Pacific, the spokesman said.
The training was not close to areas where China has constructed and militarized artificial islands claimed by several Southeast Asian nations, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, which encompasses vast reserves of untapped natural resources. However, its claims overlap with territory disputed by Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The Navy conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols in the area, which is a major trade route, and has encouraged other nations to participate. The Royal Navy’s HMS Albion conducted a mission in the South China Sea last month that Chinese officials described as “provocative,” Reuters reported.
Japan’s military did not provide details of the latest South China Sea maneuvers, but its spokesman said such training usually involves destroyers and helicopters attempting to find a submarine that is trying to avoid detection.
The exercise was geared toward improving tactical skills, the spokesman said.
Kuroshio will visit Vietnam for a “friendship mission” with the Vietnam People’s Navy this week, according to a JMSDF statement.
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