Saturday, November 13, 2004

Japan tested by China on submarine incursion

Japan lodged a formal protest with Beijing Friday after
determining that a nuclear submarine that entered its
territorial waters without identifying itself belonged
to China. Japan's navy has been on alert since
Wednesday, when the submarine was first spotted off
Japan's southern island of Okinawa.

Tokyo had sent reconnaissance aircraft and naval
destroyers to shadow the submarine, which had spent
about two hours inside Japanese waters before heading
north. Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura summoned
Chinese envoy Cheng Yong-hua to formally protest the
incursion and demand an explanation, a ministry
spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.
Cheng said Chinese authorities were investigating the
incident and that he would report the protest to
Beijing, the spokesman said. Kyodo News Agency quoted
Cheng as saying he couldn't offer an immediate apology.
"It is extremely regrettable," Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi told reporters later Friday. "In order to
prevent a recurrence, we must know why this happened and
we are awaiting a response from the Chinese. "

Earlier, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said
Tokyo had concluded that it was a Chinese nuclear
submarine after considering a range of factors,
including the fact that the vessel appeared to be
heading toward China.

This submarine may be China's Type 093 nuclear-powered
attack submarine (SSN) conducting its first operational
patrol. China has only two nuclear-powered submarines,
of which only one - the Han SSN, has gotten underway
over the last five years. However, the follow-on to the
Han, the Type 093 SSN should have completed sea trials
by now. Built with Russian assistance, the Type 093
reportedly has the same performance characteristics as
the Soviet-era Victor III SSN which entered service in
1978. It reportedly is equipped with the Skhval 200
rocket-powered torpedoes, the SS-N-16 anti-submarine
warfare (ASW) missiles and the submarine-launched
follow-on to the C-801. The Type 093 is expected to be
quieter, safer and have better sensors than the
Han-class. The Chinese reportedly plan to build five
Type 093 by 2010.


  1. As of the end of July 2004 the Japanese navy had
    observed 30 Chinese vessels operating within Japan's
    claimed EEZ since the beginning of the year. None had
    observed the agreement of February 2001 that advance
    notice should be given to Japan, Professor Robyn Lim

    I think I am correct in assuming that this is the first
    time that a nuclear-powered Han submarine, purchased
    from Russia, has been found to be engaging in such

    China is presumably planning a blockade of Taiwan.

    It should not plan on the Japanese Navy remaining in
    port should it seriously contemplate such an option.

    With all the recent talk about Nanjing, Yasukuni etc, we
    also need to "Remember the Queenfish", because the
    Japanese Navy most assuredly has not forgotten it. (The
    US submarine that lurked in the Bashi Channel in the
    latter stages of WW2 and sank an inordinate amount of
    Japanese shipping.)

    A China in possession of Taiwan would have open access
    to the deep waters of the Pacific, and thus represent an
    intolerable threat to Japan's sea lanes. That's a
    reminder of the fact that Taiwan controls the maritime
    approaches from the west for both China and Japan, which
    is why Spain and Holland set up shop there in the first

    More broadly, China's probes eastwards are meeting the
    bedrock of the US-Japan alliance, even if it's nearly
    all jello to the south, where China's vast territorial
    claims represent the greatest threat to strategic
    stability in the ASEAN region.

    Growing economic interdependence between China and Japan
    does not detract from these geopolitical realities.
    Indeed, growing economies also provide the means of
    strengthening the "sinews of war".

  2. Profesor Lim corrected a mistake confusing China's Han
    (nuclear) and Kilo (non nuclear) submarines. The Kilos
    are the ones purchased from Russia.
    [See NBR forum of the day]

  3. A submarine that briefly intruded into Japanese waters
    last week was tracked by U.S. Navy P-3C patrol planes
    off Guam until it moved to waters near Okinawa, Japanese
    government sources said Tuesday.

    A Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter tracks a
    submarine that entered Japanese waters last week some
    300 km north-northwest of Miyako Island.

    Tokyo determined the sub to be Chinese and lodged a
    protest. On Tuesday, Beijing acknowledged it was a
    Chinese vessel and expressed regret over the incident.

    Based on the positional information obtained by the
    P-3Cs, which tracked the nuclear-powered sub from the
    Guam area, Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol planes
    dropped a sonobuoy for detecting submerged submarines
    and confirmed the vessel's location south of Ishigaki
    Island in Okinawa Prefecture early Nov. 9, the sources

    The submarine continued to travel submerged from the
    Guam area until MSDF planes and vessels stopped tracking
    it Friday in the East China Sea, they said.

    It is highly probable that a submarine from the U.S. 7th
    Fleet was the first to detect the Chinese submarine in
    the Pacific after a U.S. military satellite system
    apparently detected a Chinese Han-class sub departing
    from a Chinese port, the sources said.

    Defense Agency sources had earlier said the sub was
    thought to be a Han class -- China's first nuclear
    submarines, which went into service in the 1980s --
    based on noise analysis.

    The sub moved through a corridor between Ishigaki and
    Miyako islands at around 5:50 a.m. Wednesday, breaching
    Japanese territorial waters for about two hours.

    Since the 1990s, the Chinese Navy has been exploring
    submarine routes that will take vessels to the Pacific
    between Taiwan and Okinawa, the sources said.

    China has designated the area connecting Tanegashima
    Island to Amami-Oshima Island, both in Kagoshima
    Prefecture, and the Sakishima island chain, which
    includes Ishigaki Island, as one route, and another
    route between Tokyo Bay and the Izu and Ogasawara island
    chains, with Guam at its periphery.

    "I have heard that the Chinese submarine did not advance
    into the east side (toward the United States) of the
    second island chain line" linking Tokyo Bay to the
    island chains south of Tokyo, a government source said.

    The intrusion prompted Defense Agency Director General
    Yoshinori Ono to mobilize the MSDF for enhanced maritime
    security at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. Such an order has been
    issued only once before in the 50-year history of the
    Self-Defense Forces. That was in 1999, when two North
    Korean spy ships were chased away after nearing Ishikawa
    Prefecture's Noto Peninsula.

    The order was lifted at 3:50 p.m. Friday, and MSDF P-3C
    patrol planes, destroyers and helicopters stopped
    tracking the sub as it moved away from Japanese
    territory, judging there was little likelihood it would

    Military analyst Kenji Ebata said that while it was
    unclear how close the sub had been to Guam, he had never
    heard of Chinese subs operating so far away from the
    Chinese coast.

    "It may have been training for encounters with U.S.
    (military) vessels," he said, adding he was surprised
    the Chinese side would undertake such activities with
    Han-class subs, which are large and noisy.

    Ebata also said he had no idea why the sub then entered
    Japanese territorial waters, noting that further
    information, including how long it took to travel from
    waters off Guam to those near Ishigaki Island, would be
    necessary before making such an analysis.


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