2012-06-23 — Beijing is raising alarm over joint South Korea-US-Japan naval exercises in south Jeju islands held from June 21-22. China feels the exercises were aimed at checking Chinese military expansion.
In materials issued on June 14, the South Korean government said the exercises would be non-combat in nature, including search and rescue drills and maritime interdictions. The Ministry of National Defense also cautioned against reading too much into them, describing them as “regular drills that have taken place since 2008.”
But this is also known to be the first time Seoul has gone on record about joint exercises with the US and Japan.
“In 2008 and 2010, we held them in the Pacific Ocean after RIMPAC [the Rim of the Pacific Exercise] was over, with Japan participating as an observer,” a defense ministry official said. “And in 2001, a Japanese Self-Defense Forces warship took part secretly in training in the waters between Korea and Japan.”
The latest exercises are known to have included the US naval aircraft carrier George Washington and a convoy from Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force for an examination of the mutual operationality of the three countries’ naval power.
In response, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the navy’s expert committee on navy information, appeared on the country’s state-run CCTV network on June 21 saying the aim of the exercises was to “threaten North Korea and keep China in check.”
“If North Korea becomes unstable, or in the off chance there is a clash, then China will be greatly affected in terms of its economic development and personnel,” Yin fretted.
He also said that Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo had “taken the first steps toward a ‘mini-NATO’ in Northeast Asia with their joint military exercises.”
Yin noted that South Korea had previously declined to participate in the exercises become of internal political pressures. “President Lee Myung-bak seems to want to take another step before his term ends,” he said.
CCTV also ran leading reports on the exercises in which it noted strong opposition in South Korea to the possibility of a military alliance with Japan due to historical grievances stemming from Japan’s previous colonial rule of Korea.