In an editorial by Chinese State owned news agency Xinhua on Saturday the government of Xi Jinping appeared to be levying a direct threat to the Japan for crossing what it labeled a “red line” by participating with the United States in joint “Freedom of Navigation” naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea – waters to which Japan has no territorial claim.
“As keeping martime order in the South China Sea is a shared duty of the region’s coastal states, the huge interest an outsider like Japan has shown in following in the footsteps of the United States can hardly be justified,” said the editorial questioning Tokyo’s motives.
“Whether Japan is truly seeking regional peace and security or just fishing in the troubled waters by increasing military presence in the South China Sea is not a hard question to answer,” the editorial continued.
The commentary argued that Japan’s true interest in the South China Sea is to use it as a bargaining chip in its own dispute with China over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea.
"On this issue, Japan has left no stone unturned in stirring up the waters to cause tensions with, for instance, its recent plan to cheaply sell arms to India in return for the latter’s voice against China."
The editorial comes in response to Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada’s announcement on Thursday that Japan will be expanding its presence in the South China Sea and will be engaging in "joint training cruises with the US Navy and bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional navies."
The dispute over the South China Sea centers on a ruling by The Hague arbitrational tribunal after the Philippines unilaterally sought arbitration over the disputed waters. The tribunal ruled against China’s longstanding claim to the waters through which some 40% of the world’s shipborne trade transits through each year and under which lies some of the world’s largest deep water oil and natural gas finds.