The Chinese are keeping a really close watch on the Malabar exercise – the tri-national naval drill involving India, Japan, and the US. Perhaps, a bit too close.
On June 15, Japan said that a Chinese observation vessel shadowed the USS John C. Stennis – a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier – in the Western Pacific.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
US Navy photo/Ronald Reeves
The Indian Navy and its Japanese and American counterparts are participating in the exercise off the coast of Sasebo in Japan. Sasebo shares a coastline with East China Sea.
China considers the region its own backyard and had even objected to the exercise long before it started.
Location of Sasebo in the East China Sea.
The participating countries have sent some of their most advanced warships to the exercise. The Stennis itself carries a complement of F-18 fighter jets and is considered one of the most powerful carriers in the US naval fleet. Besides the aircraft carrier, US has also sent Guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, Guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale, USS William P. Lawrence and USS Chung-Hoon, P-8A Poseidon aircraft and a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine.
Indian Navy is being represented by Shivalik-class stealth frigates INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri sophisticated fleet support ship INS Shakti and guided-missile corvette INS Kirchan.
The Indian ships belong to the Eastern Command and sailed out for Japan on May 18 from Visakhapatnam.
An Indian Navy stealth frigate sailing off the coast of Sasebo during the ongoing Malabar Exercise. Spokesperson Navy/Twitter
The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force has sent the helicopter carrier JDS Hyuga, some advanced warships and a long-range maritime patrol aircraft.
The Americans and the Japanese are wary of China’s growing assertiveness in the South- and East China Sea regions.
Japan has a long-standing dispute with China over the Senkaku islands. The islands are located close to Sasebo and Okinawa chain of islands.
Japanese and US Navy sailors holding dive training as part of the Malabar Exercise. Spokesperson Navy/Twitter
The US has a naval base at Sasebo and an air force base at Okinawa. Quoting a JMSDF officer, a report claims that the USS Stennis will now act as a “decoy” to draw the Chinese ship away from the exercise area.