15:02 GMT09 May 2021
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    Tensions in the South China Sea are continuing to rise after China asked Japan to reveal why they are planning to send its largest warship on a three month tour of the ocean.

    China said on Tuesday, March 15 that it is awaiting official word from Tokyo as to why they're sending the 24,000-ton warship through the hotly disputed waters.

    A helicopter lands on the Izumo, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's (JMSDF) helicopter carrier, at JMSDF Yokosuka base in Yokosuka
    © REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon
    A helicopter lands on the Izumo, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's (JMSDF) helicopter carrier, at JMSDF Yokosuka base in Yokosuka

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing hasn't been told the purpose of the trip and said they will only have objections if the boat doesn't pass through the waters "normally."

    "We have not yet heard what Japan says officially," she told a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

    "If it's only a normal visit, going to several countries, and passing normally through the South China Sea, then we've got no objections, and we hope this kind of normal exchange between relevant countries can play a role promoting regional peace and stability.

    "But if going to the South China Sea has different intentions, then that's a different matter."

    The Izumo helicopter carrier is set to hold joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, with ships from the navies of the US and India, a Japanese military spokesman said on Monday, March 13. 

    The ship, which was commissioned just two years ago, will also have stopovers in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia, before returning to Japan in August.

    China has laid claim over much of the South China Sea even building artificial islands for military vehicles.

    Beijing has stoked the ire of neighbors Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei who also claim parts of the sea which has rich fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits.

    However, Japan does not have a claim over any of the ocean, but it does have a separate maritime dispute with China over the sovereignty of parts of the East China Sea.


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