Japanese air patrols over South China Sea would be ‘welcome’: Pentagon


The U.S. Defense Department said Friday it would “welcome” future air patrols by Japan over the South China Sea, where China is involved in territorial disputes with some Southeast Asian countries.

But the U.S. State Department did not appear to be in step with the Pentagon in encouraging Japanese involvement in such operations, which would create a potential diplomatic issue all but certain to provoke China.

The two departments were commenting on a recent report that a senior U.S. naval officer favored air patrols by the Maritime Self-Defense Force over the waters.

Such an operation by the MSDF “in the South China Sea makes sense in the future,” Adm. Robert Thomas, top commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, was quoted as saying in a recent interview with Reuters.

The 7th fleet operates from the western Pacific to the Indian Ocean and is based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, told reporters Friday, “We would agree with Adm. Thomas that those kinds of patrols and activity is welcome and will help contribute to stability in the region.”

“There’s no reason for China or any other nation to look at it any differently,” Kirby said.

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stopped short of endorsing the reported remark.

“We’re not aware of any plans or proposals for Japan to patrol the South China Sea,” Psaki told a press briefing. “I believe they were comments made” by a Defense Department official.

The United States welcomes “a more active role for Japan in ensuring stability and security in Asia” Psaki said, adding, “But we’re not aware of plans or proposals for new patrols.”

She said, “It sounds like reports aren’t accurate.”

China has already expressed displeasure at the admiral’s reported remarks.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Friday that countries outside the region should “refrain from sowing discord among other countries and creating tensions.”

Ties between Japan and China have been strained due mainly to disputes over the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, which also claims them. The isles are uninhabited but believed to be located in areas rich in fishing and energy resources.

The U.S. government has repeatedly asked Tokyo and Beijing to settle the issue through dialogue.

  • Testerty

    Alright!! Soon Japanese military will be patrolling Java Seas and Strait of Malacca. Just matter of time Japan will be patrolling Manchuria again. Way to go Japan!!!

    • Viva75

      Another comment, another 50cents Testerty. In actual fact, it’s Chinese military vessels not Japanese that have been routinely patrolled the Java Sea, the Strait of Malacca and even as far as just off the Australian coast. We are talking about the reality in the present, not 70 years ago.

      Please try to remember that just because a particular sea has the name China in it, does not mean China actually owns it, they never did. The nine dash line is simply a fairy tale to enable them to steal territory and resources and Vietnam, and Philippines in particular will gladly welcome any balancing Japanese presence.

      Unfortunately none of this would be needed if China was acting responsibly throughout the region, instead of bullying and pressuring smaller nations and regions (Hong Kong and Taiwan included). Predictably though, China’s actions are very counter productive for them in the long term. You really you should be making comments to your own government and asking them why they are morally defunct, thoroughly corrupt and are not trusted.

      None of this has anything to do with WWII, or anything to do with Manchuria 80 years ago. It has everything to do with China’s actions in the present and over the past 5 years in particular.

      • I agree with this. In current history, China is clearly the aggressor in the region. Japan should patrol South China Sea because that would be self-defense.

  • timefox

    China has unilaterally set the Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea.
    And, China could not even distinguish the Air Defense Identification Zone and Chinese airspace.
    China called the Air Defense Identification Zone the Chinese airspace and has been condemned by the international community.

    China is calling the East China Sea Chinese territorial waters.
    East China Sea is international waters .
    China’s gonna harm to the ship to pass the high seas .
    Japan Self-Defense Forces are patrolled to protect shipping from the country where they look like such pirate.

    It’s right of Japan Self-Defense Forces to pass through high seas and inspect an international route.
    It’s only China to complain of this.
    Does China break an international rule at the East China Sea?

    • Tim

      Fortunately, this Islands dispute has given China a golden opportunity and a perfect excuse to avenge historic injustices inflicted on her by Japan.

  • Dsakei

    Weak countries in southeast asia welcome this support against Chinese bullies.

  • Tim

    As soon as Japanese air patrols over South China Sea China
    will declare the new Air Defense Identification Zone and Chinese airspace in the area. The Japanese starts it. China will finish it.