Japan Reports Spotting 2 Russian Ships Near Taiwan, Okinawa for Days

Japan Reports Spotting 2 Russian Ships Near Taiwan, Okinawa for Days
A general view of the Russian military frigate "Admiral Gorshkov" docked at the port in Richards Bay, South Africa, on February 22, 2023. (GUILLEM SARTORIO/AFP via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

Two Russian frigates were spotted sailing off the waters near Taiwan and Japanese-controlled Okinawa islands between June 27 and June 30, Japan’s military said, amid rising tensions in the region.

Japan’s Joint Staff said the two Steregushchy-class frigates were first detected 70 kilometers (43 miles) southwest of the Yonaguni island in Okinawa prefecture near Taiwan at around 8:00 a.m. local time on June 27.

The ships were spotted 120 kilometers (74 miles) southeast of Ishigaki Island in Okinawa from June 27 to June 29 before heading north through the waters between Miyako and Okinawa islands on June 30.

Japan’s military responded by deploying two ships to monitor the Russian ships’ movement, according to the Joint Staff’s statement.

This followed the Taiwanese Defense Ministry’s previous claims that it detected two Russian frigates near the island’s eastern coast on June 27 without identifying the ships’ names or distance from Taiwan’s coast.

The ministry said the Russian ships were seen “sailing from south to north through the eastern waters” of Taiwan before leaving Taiwan’s response zone in Suao toward the southeast.

While Taiwan’s government routinely reports the movements of Chinese vessels near its waters and U.S. ships transiting the Taiwan Strait, it rarely reports sightings of Russian warships.

Russia’s news agency Interfax also reported on June 27 that a detachment of ships of the Russian Pacific Fleet entered the southern parts of the Philippine Sea after crossing the South China Sea.

According to the report, the ships were performing tasks as part of a long-range sea crossing, “with a demonstration of the naval presence” in the Asia-Pacific region and “as part of strengthening partnerships.” But it remains unclear how many ships were involved.

China, Russia Military Threats

The move came amid communist China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea, which it claims almost entirely, and growing concerns over a possible escalation in Taiwan, which the Chinese regime views as its own and has vowed to conquer by force if necessary.

Moscow, which has backed Beijing’s stance on Taiwan, has been boosting Russia’s defenses in its vast far-eastern regions bordering the Asia-Pacific, accusing the United States of expanding its presence there and raising security concerns in Japan and across the region.

On June 8, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that Japan lodged a protest against China through diplomatic channels after a Chinese military ship intruded into Japan’s waters.
In March, Russia test-fired anti-ship missiles in the Sea of Japan, with two boats launching a simulated missile attack on a mock enemy warship about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.

Japan reacted calmly to the missile exercise, which was conducted near Vladivostok, pledging to continue to monitor Russia’s military operations.

A Russian navy boat launches an anti-ship missile test in the Peter The Great Gulf in the Sea of Japan, on March 28, 2023. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
A Russian navy boat launches an anti-ship missile test in the Peter The Great Gulf in the Sea of Japan, on March 28, 2023. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
Japan has previously raised concerns over China’s military threat toward Taiwan. Last year, the ministry devoted 10 pages of its annual defense report (pdf) to Taiwan, double the pages of the previous year’s edition, giving an extensive overview of the security situation there.

The 2022 defense report stated that conflict between the United States and China is becoming “prominent” over Taiwan, with Washington increasing warship transits through the Taiwan Straits while China increases its military presence near Taiwan.

Japan considers the stability surrounding Taiwan to be of paramount importance for its national security and emphasizes the need for close monitoring “with a sense of urgency.”

A draft of Japan’s annual defense report referred to Beijing as Japan’s “greatest strategic challenge” and warned that China could amass 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, Kyodo News reported on May 23.

The document also raised concerns about China’s military cooperation with Russia. The two nations have carried out five joint bomber flights near Japan since July 2019, which Japan regarded as “a show of force.”

Japan warned that the international community has entered “a new era of crisis” following Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which it said has disrupted the international order spanning Europe and Asia.

Mimi Nguyen Ly, Reuters, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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