China has asked Japan and the United States to cancel a drill set for this month in California by U.S. forces and Self-Defense Forces to recapture control of a remote island, in light of the Sino-Japanese row over the Senkaku Islands, sources said Tuesday.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a biweekly news conference that Japan and the U.S. would conduct the exercise as planned to boost both SDF and joint-operation capabilities.
In April, the Defense Ministry said about 1,000 SDF members will take part in the drill set to be held on an island and a U.S. military base in California this month. It will mark the first time SDF personnel participate in such a drill on the U.S. mainland.
Tokyo and Washington say they have no particular enemy country in mind in conducting the drill, noting they have conducted similar exercises before.
China filed the request through diplomatic channels, the sources said, adding that Beijing is firmly against the drill.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to hold a summit with his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, on Friday and Saturday, just ahead of the drill’s scheduled Monday kickoff.
About 1,000 members from the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense forces will participate in the exercise, mainly crew members of three MSDF ships, including the 13,950-ton Hyuga, a helicopter-carrying destroyer, and the 7,750-ton Atago, an Aegis-equipped destroyer.
Around 250 GSDF ranks, 730 from the MSDF and five from the ASDF are to participate in the drill.
Bilateral ties between Japan and China have deteriorated since Tokyo effectively nationalized the Senkakus last September. Since then, China has frequently sent maritime surveillance ships to waters near the islands.
China also claims the islets, which Japan took possession of in 1895.