WASHINGTON – Japan’s observation last month of Chinese live-fire military exercises in the Western Pacific, criticized by Beijing, was in line with standard military practice, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific region said Tuesday.
“It was not an abnormal operation, an abnormal event to have them observing the exercise in the way they did and should not be viewed as a provocative act in my view,” Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters in Washington.
The Chinese Defense Ministry on Oct. 31 claimed that Maritime Self-Defense Force ships and aircraft had disrupted the drills, creating a provocative and dangerous situation. Japan has denied the allegation.
The incident came amid increased tensions between Japan and China over the disputed sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.
Friction has increased over the last year, with China sending growing numbers of ships and aircraft into areas surrounding the islets and Japan scrambling to respond.
Locklear declined comment on reports that the U.S. and Japan have produced a joint plan for protecting the Senkakus against possible Chinese military action, but noted that the U.S. conducts “a broad range of planning” with allies. The U.S. military is, however, planning for the possibility that North Korea has developed missiles capable of reaching the United States, Locklear said.