TOKYO: The coordinated passage of 10 Chinese and Russian warships, including destroyers and frigates from China, through the Tsugaru Straits, a bottle neck across the northern Japanese archipelago, on 18 has shocked Japan.
Although not considered an intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters, the revelation by the Ministry of Defense left Japanese military planners wondering what is behind this show of power by Japan’s main adversaries in east Asia.
This is the first confirmation of Chinese and Russian ships navigating the strait at the same time, according to the Joint Staff Office of the Ministry.
Five Chinese ships and five Russian ships were spotted about 110 kilometers southwest of Okushiri Island near Hokkaido at around 8 a.m. on October 18. The 10 ships then headed east and out into the Pacific Ocean. In the Sea of Japan off Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, Russian troops have been doing training exercises and Chinese ships are believed to have participated in these exercises.
The Tsugaru Strait is a strait between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. It was named after the western part of Aomori Prefecture.
Japan’s territorial waters extend to 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) into the strait instead of the usual 12, reportedly to allow nuclear-armed United States Navy warships and submarines to transit the strait without violating Japan’s prohibition against nuclear weapons in its territory. The part of the Tsugaru Strait considered to be in international waters is still within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.