ON September 13, the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings published a hair-raising account from its Malaysian correspondent of a submerged submarine “believed to be Chinese” off the coast of Japan.
“The Japanese Ministry of Defense detected a Chinese submarine operating in the contiguous zone of Japan’s southern islands, they announced in a Sept. 12 press release, and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) air and naval units are maintaining surveillance on the submarine.”
The press release was issued just three days following the completion of the major Japan-US-Britain-Canada sea and air naval war exercise codenamed Pacific Crown, in which the Canadian frigate HMC Winnipeg participated. The Malaysia-based writer continued, revealing that “the Chinese submarine” was in fact “believed to be Chinese”:
“The submarine had been spotted by the JMSDF in the morning of Sept. 10 moving in a northwest direction while in the eastern waters off Amami Oshima island, which lies between Kyushu and Okinawa, according to the Ministry of Defense statement. While the submarine stayed submerged, it was believed to be Chinese, as it had been operating in the vicinity of a Type 052D Luyang III class destroyer. It was spotted sailing north in the same area the next morning, and by Sunday, Sept. 12, the submarine was in the vicinity of the contiguous zone southwest of the uninhabited Japanese island of Yokoatejima, which lies 32 nautical miles northwest of Amami Oshima.
“The contiguous zone defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea covers up to 12 nautical miles outside a nation’s territorial sea. In the contiguous zone, a coastal state may prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations and punish infringement of those laws committed within its territory or territorial sea. International law does not have any regulations on military ships operating in the contiguous zone of another country, though it can be seen as a provocative act.
“Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi was quoted in the release as telling the Ministry to gather all information and stay alert on the situation. The release also said P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircrafts of Fleet Air Wing 1 at Kanoya Air Base and Fleet Air Wing 4 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi and P-3 Orions of Fleet Air Wing 5 at Naha Air Base, along with the destroyers JS Sazanami (DD113) and JS Harusame (DD102), were monitoring the activities of the submarine.” (emphasis added)
So in other words, the submarine “believed to be Chinese” was operating on, well under but still, the high seas. All perfectly legal and normal, notice that no one in Japan was wailing or getting bent out of shape beyond “monitoring.”
One excited American reader of Proceedings posted a warning: “It’s a decoy! A ploy to divert attention. There are other Chicom subs prowling the areas closer to major Japanese shipyards. This lone wolf may excite some, but they have a bigger plan to pinpoint JMDF vessel movements.”
Others argued over the relative merits of Chinese and Russian submarines.
Another reader finished the comments:
“It’s not that I have any use for China whatsoever, their submarines least of all.
But what the heck does Japan or anyone else *think* they’re going to use their submarines for?
I mean really now.
In other news, ‘China May Be Using Sea To Hide Its Submarines’ …
Just in case anyone was interested.”
Putting submarines “believed to be Chinese” below the sea surface in international waters to avoid detection is indeed a brilliant idea. How come the Americans did not think of this first?