Japan is shaping up as China's chief rival in the disputed South China Sea because it has a sustained, multi-pronged approach and a unique set of reasons to test Beijing’s growing influence, analysts say.
The country has emerged since 2017 as a force in the sea. It works with the United States on joint naval exercises including one from May 2-8 that also involved warships from India and the Philippines. Japan has separately sent its Izumo-class helicopter carrier to the sea at least four times since 2017. That year it took a three-month tour.
Japan, unlike the United States, is helping Southeast Asian claimants to the South China Sea develop infrastructure and maritime firepower. Japanese officials don’t claim the sea, but a separate territorial dispute with China motivates them to keep a watch on Chinese influence. Japanese citizens tend to support foreign policy targeting China, analysts say.
“Under (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe, Tokyo has enhanced defense and security engagements in Southeast Asia, not least with the South China Sea in mind,” said Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “I believe Beijing will...be concerned about Japan using the South China Sea.”
Source : VOA