A Chinese aircraft carrier and several other warships were spotted on Saturday passing through the waterway between Okinawa and Miyako Island on their way to the Pacific Ocean. On Sunday, Japan’s military said it had deployed a destroyer and two surveillance aircraft to monitor the Chinese vessels, a sign of growing tensions between the two Asian countries.
According to The South China Morning Post, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning last passed through the waterway in April of last year. The passage is seen as a message to Japan and the US, who are both looking to boost cooperation in the region to counter Beijing. The US, Japan, India, and Australia for a group known as the Quad, which could be the foundation for an anti-China NATO-style alliance in Asia.
Last week, Japan and Indonesia signed a new military agreement that will facilitate the transfer of Japanese-made military equipment to Jakarta. The two countries also agreed to hold exercises together in the South China Sea, a move sure to escalate tensions with Beijing.
Japan and China are also at odds over the Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyus, as they are known in China. The Senkakus are uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that are currently administered by Japan and are also claimed by China and Taiwan. Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been spotted near the Senkakus, drawing protest from Japan and warnings from the US.
The Biden administration has reassured Tokyo that the Senkakus are covered under the security treaty between the US and Japan. This means any incident between Japan and China over the uninhabited islands could draw the US into a war.
Besides boosting military ties in the region, the US is constantly stoking tensions with China by sailing warships into sensitive waterways. According to the South China Sea Probing Initiative, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and two other warships entered the disputed waters on Sunday.