Japan’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday said its forces observed five Russian warships, led by an anti-submarine destroyer, passing through the Tsushima Strait that separates Japan and South Korea.
The Russian flotilla of five ships has been off the Japanese islands for a week now, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, the ministry said.
The ministry said the group has been operating in waters off Japan since June 12.
“This is a clear show of strength from both Russia and China,” said James Brown, an assistant professor of political science at Temple University in Tokyo.
“This activity is of great concern to Japan. Last but not least, tracking the movement of both Russian and Chinese military forces drains the resources of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.”
Most recently, when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hosted the U.S.-Australian-Indian leaders summit in Tokyo, the Chinese and Russian air forces conducted joint strategic air patrols over the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, and the Western Pacific Ocean, which the Chinese Ministry of Defense described as part of the annual military cooperation plan.
Brown said that holding this summit in Kishida was just one of the reasons Beijing wanted to express its dissatisfaction with Tokyo.
“Beijing was outraged by Japan’s statements about the security of Taiwan, which the Chinese Communist Party considers an internal matter,” Brown said.
Taiwan and mainland China have been ruled separately since the defeated Nationalists retreated to the island at the end of the Chinese Civil War more than 70 years ago.
But China’s ruling Communist Party sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory, despite never having controlled it.
Beijing does not exclude the use of military force to seize Taiwan, while Japan views the conflict across the Taiwan Strait as a threat to its security.
“Therefore, Russia wants to use its military power to intimidate Japan in the hope that this will deter Tokyo from further imposing such measures,” Brown said.
Brown described the fact that Russian and Chinese naval actions this week did not seem to be coordinated as a “beam of hope” for Tokyo.
“Japan’s strategic nightmare is a genuine alliance between Russia and China,” he said.