The West Sea is turning into a new arena of competition between the U.S., China and Japan. China plans to launch its first aircraft carrier in August, while Japan is mulling the deployment of Aegis destroyers near the West Sea. The U.S. is willing to dispatch its own aircraft carriers to the West Sea at any time if necessary.
The West Sea drew international attention following the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010. Eight months later North Korea shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in the same waters.
China fiercely protested when the U.S. dispatched the aircraft carrier George Washington to the West Sea to discourage further provocations from North Korea.
Japan’s Defense Ministry is mulling the deployment of Aegis destroyers to waters near the West Sea under the pretext of detecting North Korean missile launches. Experts suspect this is really a creeping expansion of the Japanese military’s range.“This appears to be a highly political move aimed at keeping China in check,” said a high-ranking government official here.
The West Sea is a sort of gateway to China, so any moves to dispatch warships to waters nearby draw strong protests from Beijing.