Japan’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday said its forces had observed five Russian warships led by an anti-submarine destroyer steaming through the Tsushima Strait, which separates Japan and South Korea.
The five-ship Russian flotilla has been near Japanese islands for a week, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, the ministry said in a news release.
The ministry said that group has been operating in waters near Japan since June 12.
“This is an obvious show of force from both Russia and China,” said James Brown, associate professor of political science at Temple University in Tokyo.
“These activities are a major worry for Japan. Not least, tracking the movements of both Russian and Chinese military forces are a strain on the resources of the Japan Self Defense Forces.”
More recently, as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hosted a summit of the leaders of the United States, Australia and India in Tokyo, the Chinese and Russian air forces conducted joint strategic air patrols over the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the western Pacific Ocean, in what the Chinese Defense Ministry called part of an annual military cooperation plan.
Brown said Kishida’s hosting of that summit was just one reason Beijing would want to show its displeasure with Tokyo.
“Beijing has been angered by Japanese statements regarding the security of Taiwan, which the Chinese Communist Party considers a domestic matter,” Brown said.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since the defeated Nationalists retreated to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war more than 70 years ago.
But China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party views the self-ruled island as part of its territory — despite having never controlled it.
Beijing has not ruled out military force to take Taiwan, and Japan sees conflict across the Taiwan Strait as a threat to its security.
“Russia therefore wishes to use its military power to intimidate Japan in the hope that this will deter Tokyo from imposing further such measures,” Brown said.
Brown described the fact that this week’s naval actions by Russia and China did not seem to be coordinated as a “silver lining” for Tokyo.
“Japan’s strategic nightmare is a genuine alliance between Russia and China,” he said.