Oyashio-class submarine Kuroshio. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

While Washington’s trade confrontations, targeting allies and competitors alike, have pushed Beijing and Tokyo closer together in the area of economic cooperation, there is still plenty of friction between the East Asian powers.

Japan’s decision on Monday to issue a rare announcement about submarine activity in the South China Sea is likely to add to the tensions, as Tokyo steps up its naval presence in the region.

The Japan Times reported on Monday that a Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine took part in a drill last week in disputed territory in the South China Sea. Not only was the participation of a submersible in exercises in the region a first for Japan, but the announcement also strayed from the MSDF’s practice of keeping word of submarine activities secret.

The anti-submarine-warfare exercise involved the submarine Kuroshio and three other vessels, including Japan’s largest warship, the helicopter carrier Kaga.

China’s Foreign Ministry declined to criticize Japan directly in a press briefing on Monday, saying only that Beijing urged countries to respect the efforts taking place between China and other nations in the region to resolve disputes through dialogue.

Countries outside the territory “should not engage in conduct that will harm regional peace and stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

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