China Sea Dispute Looms Large in U.S. Visit

As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepares for a visit to Beijing, recent tensions in the South China Sea, and a planned joint naval exercise by the U.S., Australia and Japan – are certain to be on the agenda. From the Wall Street Journal:

Adm. Mullen is due to arrive in Beijing Saturday just as the U.S. and its two main regional military partners—Japan and Australia—begin joint naval drills in the for the first time, a move likely to anger China, which claims sovereignty over nearly all of those waters.

Japan and the U.S. will each provide a destroyer, and Australia a patrol boat for the joint drills to improve tactical movement and communication off the coast of Brunei, two officials from Japan’s Defense Ministry said in interviews.

The officials said the three countries have staged joint drills annually since 2007, but never before in the South China Sea, where Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also have conflicting territorial claims.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it has repeatedly protested in the past over U.S. naval exercises near what it sees as its territorial waters. Australian officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

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