[Ed. – Well, this is a big one. First time Japan has copped to operating a submarine in the South China Sea. Obviously an intentional political signal. Keep in mind: China is trying to make the South China Sea an extension of sovereign Chinese territory, which would effectively close it off as an international waterway in which free passage according to Law of the Sea principles prevails. That is unacceptable, for obvious reasons, to all of China’s neighbors, as well as to the U.S. This won’t be the last we hear of increasing tensions in the SCS.]
[Japanese submarine] Kuroshio visited Cam Ranh in Vietnam on Monday, another landmark event likely to anger China given its current territorial disputes with Vietnam in the South China Sea.
According to the Japanese defense ministry, last Thursday the submarine joined the helicopter carrier Kaga and the destroyers Inazuma and Suzutsuki for an anti-submarine warfare exercise. Japanese media reports the exercise was held near the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both China and the Philippines. The Chinese have reacted angrily to American and British freedom of navigation patrols near the shoal.
It is somewhat unusual for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force to announce the activities of its submarines.