Japan sends three vessels to South China Sea in anti-submarine exercise

TOKYO / BEIJING (Reuters) - Japan's maritime self-defense force conducted anti-submarine drills in the South China Sea on October 9, using three ships, including a helicopter aircraft carrier and a submarine, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
The purpose of the exercise was "to improve their tactical skills," the ministry said in a statement, without giving more details about the geographic location of the exercises.
The three ships will stop at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam over the weekend to replenish supplies, the statement said.
The ministry could not be reached immediately for further comments.
Almost all of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea are claimed by China, which has established military outposts on man-made islands in the region. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.
The United States has accused China of militarizing the South China Sea and attempting to intimidate Asian neighbors who may want to exploit the region's vast oil and gas reserves.
China's state-backed Global Times newspaper, which took note of the recent Japanese exercises, said on Saturday that frequent military activities in the South China Sea are not conducive to the security and stability of the area and are strongly opposed by China.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army has always been vigilant in defending China's national sovereignty, security and development interests, said the newspaper, published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of China.
The Global Times said Japanese warships recently conducted activities in the South China Sea, with a helicopter aircraft carrier sighted on satellite on Sept. 5.
On Friday, a Chinese military spokesman said the US destroyer John McCain entered the waters around the controversial Paracel Islands in the South China Sea without China's permission and called on the United States to stop "such provocative actions".

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami in Tokyo and Ryan Woo in Beijing; editing by Richard Pullin)

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