– Sources said, Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship, the Izumo helicopter carrier, for three months to the South China Sea in May.
– It will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
– It will also participate in joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean.
This deployment of the warship will have an effect to reassure the countries which have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.
While China’s activity in the South China Sea is getting intense, there is little hope that members of ASEAN will be unified against China. As China is a main trading partner for countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmer, those countries are unwilling to put themselves in a position against China. Philippines improved its relationship with China under President Duterte, while exacerbating with the US.
Responding to the division in ASEAN, Japan attempts to lead strategic cooperation between coastal states in the South China Sea instead of the weak regional organisation.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe made his 4 nation trip to Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia in January, and during his visit, he declared Japan will strengthen its strategic relationships between these countries. This includes not only transfer of defence equipment and technology, but also its participation in some regional security cooperation. For example, he agreed to participate in the Leaders’ Summit of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and showed his willingness to promote maritime cooperation in the region. This implies that Japan will strengthen its commitment and provide the leadership in the South China Sea, attempting to unify the coastal states.