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Japan’s defense minister will travel to Hawaii next week

William Cole

Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani will visit with senior U.S. defense officials in Hawaii Monday and Tuesday “to discuss the continually evolving security environment in the region, including the East and South China Sea, service-specific relationships and the current ballistic missile defense posture in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” U.S. Pacific Command said.

The defense minister also will visit the USS Arizona Memorial for a wreath-laying ceremony in Pearl Harbor.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told President Barack Obama that Japan would “consider” engaging in some activity by the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the South China Sea “while focusing on what effect the situation has on Japan’s security,” according to media reports.

The suggestion brought an angry backlash with China saying it “remained on high alert for intervention by Japan in the South China Sea,” while also reminding Japan of its World War II role in the region, official government news agency Xinhua reported.

Separately, Xinhua said People’s Liberation Army Navy commander Wu Shengli told Adm. Scott Swift, head of U.S. Pacific Fleet, that the Chinese navy had exercised “maximum restraint” in the face of U.S. provocations. Swift was on a visit to China.

Recent maneuvers by U.S. aircraft and Naval vessels near Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea in the name of freedom of navigation have been a provocation to China’s sovereign rights and posed grave threats to the security of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, Xinhua reported Wu saying.

“The U.S. conduct does not contribute to peace and stability in the South China Sea whatsoever,” Wu said.

The United States on Oct. 27 sailed the destroyer USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese man-made island at Subi Reef in the South China Sea that China claims as territory but that the United States contends is in international waters.

The United States is worried China may restrict commercial traffic in the South China Sea, a vital international shipping route, with a military buildup.

On Nov. 8 and 9, two U.S. B-52 bombers flew near Chinese man-made islands in international air space in the disputed Spratly Islands, but did not come with the 12 nautical miles China claims as sovereign territory.

Nakatani will visit Monday with Marine Corps Forces Pacific deputy commander Brig. Gen. Christopher Mahoney and meet at Fort Shafter with Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Army Pacific. He also will tour the Sea-Based X-Band radar and a U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser.

On Tuesday, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. head of U.S. Pacific Command, will meet with Nakatani at Camp H.M. Smith. 

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