Russian Navy steps up activities in waters near Japan

Russian warships carrying tanks and missiles have been spotted in waters near Japan, almost certainly signaling a stepping up of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, analysts said.

The rise in Russian naval activity around Japan coincides with China’s increased maritime presence in the region, which may reflect a degree of coordination, they added.

On March 16, Defense Ministry officials said four Russian naval transport vessels were spotted in the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the main islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. The ships were moving west from the Pacific to the Sea of ​​Japan.

Two Russian tank carriers were seen about 70 kilometers east-northeast of Cape Shiriya in Aomori Prefecture around 8 p.m. on March 15. Two more Russian tank carriers were spotted about 220 km east-northeast of Cape Shiriya around 7 a.m. the following day.

A Russian weapons transport vessel capable of carrying missiles was spotted about 70 km east-northeast of Cape Shiriya around 9 a.m. on March 14, sources said.

The recent sightings follow a massive joint training exercise in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk off Hokkaido that involved Russian and Chinese warships.

Officials said 24 Russian ships took part in the February exercise, with a number later observed crossing both the Tsugaru Strait and the Soya Strait past the northern tip of Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan.

Defense Ministry officials said on March 14 that six Russian navy ships, including a destroyer and three submarines, were spotted moving west through the Soya Strait. They speculated that the ships were involved in the February training exercise.

Ten of the 24 ships were spotted crossing the Tsugaru Strait in a westerly direction on March 10 and 11.

Defense Ministry officials said it was highly unusual that so many Russian naval vessels were operating in waters near Japan. None of them entered Japanese territorial waters.

However, it did not go unnoticed that some of them were equipped with missiles and torpedoes.

Russia and China have engaged in joint air and sea operations in recent years.

In October 2021, defense officials noted that 10 Chinese and Russian navy ships had formed an armada to sail around the Japanese archipelago.

The fleet crossed the Tsugaru Strait to enter the Pacific before moving south and crossing the Osumi Strait south of Kagoshima Prefecture to return to the East China Sea where the disputed Senkaku Islands are located. .

Russia and China have also carried out joint surveillance flights over the Sea of ​​Japan and the East China Sea for three consecutive years starting in 2019.

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