Japan Has A Plan For Dismantling China’s Submarine Fleet


Japanese forces chased a Chinese submarine out of Japanese waters on Thursday. Officials in Tokyo characterized the sub’s infiltration as part of China’s escalating land-grab across the western Pacific.

A Japanese “destroyer”—actually, the helicopter-carrier Kaga—along with a P-1 patrol plane reportedly detected the submarine within 24 miles of Amami-Oshima island, near Okinawa in southern Japan. For two days Kaga and patrol planes tailed the submarine until it finally left Japanese waters.

The last time a foreign sub got caught infiltrating Japanese waters was in 2018, according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The chases underscore Tokyo’s sophisticated plan for defeating Beijing’s undersea forces.

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The novel-coronavirus pandemic has disrupted naval deployments all over the world. Infections briefly sidelined several U.S. Navy warships in the Pacific region. The U.S. State Department has accused China of trying to take advantage of the disruption in order to advance its territorial claims across the China Seas.

On April 3, a Chinese ship rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in the disputed waters of the resource-rich South China Sea. Around the same time, China declared two archipelagos in the area as its own administrative districts, drawing a protest from Vietnam’s foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, Beijing announced it had established new “research stations” on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef, two of the roughly dozen major island bases it has built across the region in recent years.

Confrontations between Japanese and Chinese forces have become more frequent and more heated as China’s military has grown in size and capability. Japan’s own forces, while significant, have not expanded—owing in part to Japan’s stagnant economy.

“The balance of naval power in Asia is shifting dramatically,” Toshi Yoshihara, a fellow with the Washington, D.C., Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, wrote in a May study. The Chinese fleet can deploy with around 3,300 missiles, compared to the 1,600 the Japanese fleet can deploy with.

Missile capacity is a rough measure of naval power. The U.S. fleet can sail with no fewer than 10,000 missiles.