Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Japanese plane circles over disputed S China Sea islands

Reuters, PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines

A Japanese P3-C Orion plane flies over Puerto Princesa City, Philippines, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

A Japanese military patrol plane circled over disputed parts of the South China Sea yesterday at the start of an exercise with the Philippine military that has irked China.

According to Japanese and Philippine officials, the Japanese P3-C Orion surveillance plane, with three Philippine guest crew members, flew at 1,524m above the edge of the Reed Bank (Lile Bank, 禮樂灘), an energy-rich area that is claimed by Taiwan, China and the Philippines. It was accompanied by a smaller Philippine patrol aircraft.

The disputed waters are close to the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), some or all of which are claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, and where China is building a series of man-made islands.

“We practiced search-and-rescue patterns, which are essential in any humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations,” Marine Colonel Jonas Lumawag said at Puerta Princesa International Airport on Palawan island, the operations base for the drill 80km to the west.

“This is our first time here and also with this kind of activity with the Philippines,” Maritime Self Defense Force Commander Hiromi Hamano, head of the Japanese navy contingent, said after the P3-C returned to Palawan.

Japan’s presence in what it considers international waters may be seen by Beijing as tacit support for ownership claims made by the Philippines.

“We hope the relevant parties do not hype up or even create tensions in the region, and we hope the parties concerned can do more to contribute to peace and stability in the region, rather than the opposite,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) told a daily news briefing.

Japan worries that China’s domination in a region through which much of its seaborne trade passes would isolate it. Tokyo is also locked in a dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea.

Xinhua news agency had previously condemned the two day search-and-rescue exercise as Japanese “meddling.”

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million square kilometer South China Sea, an area it denotes on maps with its so called nine-dash line.

The exercise by Japan and the Philippines comes as Manila conducts separate drills with the US military that began last week.

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