KULA LUMPUR – Three Russian warships and three Russian civilian vessels transited the Tsushima Straits on Tuesday, while a Chinese surveillance ship sailed from the East China Sea into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, according to releases posted on Wednesday by the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self-Defense Force.
The three Russian Navy ships are destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), an Altay-class replenishment ship and rescue tug SB-408. The JSDF identified the civilian ships as pipe-laying ship Akademik Cherskiy, offshore supply ship Ivan Sidorenko and offshore supply ship Ostap Sheremeta. All three Russian civilian ships are sanctioned by the United States over to their involvement in the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Specially Designated Foreign Nationals (SDN) list. Work on the pipeline had been completed in September last year and it’s likely the civilian ships are now in the Pacific for new assignments by their owners.
The Russian ships were sighted 80 kilometers west of the Danjo Islands at 9 a.m. on Tuesday by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and subsequently went north through the Tsushima Strait and sailed toward the Sea of Japan, according to the news release. The JSDF added that Admiral Panteleyev had previously been sighted on March 24 going southwest through the Tsushima Strait. P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Station Atsugi and fast attack craft JS Shirataka (PG-829) monitored the Russian ships.
In a second news release, the JSO said People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Dongdiao-class surveillance ship 795 had been sighted traveling southeast in the sea, 160 kilometers northwest of Amami Oshima island, Kagoshima Prefecture and subsequently sailed east between Amami Oshima and Yokoate island before traveling into the Pacific Ocean. P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at Kanoya Air Field and the replenishment ship JS Hamana (AOE-424) monitored the PLAN ship, according to the release.
Meanwhile, U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is now operating in the Philippine Sea after finishing exercises with all three arms of the JSDF that began on April 8. Abraham Lincoln, cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-52) and destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), with JMSDF destroyers JS Inazuma (DD-105) and JS Kongo (DDG-173), conducted joint drills ranging from air warfare exercises to maritime communication operations, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued Monday.
“Our enduring commitments to our relationships in the Indo-Pacific region continue to grow and blossom through integrated and bilateral at-sea exercises including the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force,” Rear Adm. J. T. Anderson, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 3, said in the release. “These exercises demonstrate our collective combat-credible capabilities while safeguarding our shared interests and values.”
During the exercise, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force CH-47s and troops from the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) operated off Abraham Lincoln, while a JGSDF AH-64 helicopter conducted deck landing operations on Inazuma.
“As the security environment surrounding Japan becomes even more severe, Japan and the United States are always working closely together to ensure the defense of Japan and the peace and security of the region,” Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said of the exercises during his regularly scheduled press conference on Tuesday. “Through this training, we believe that Japan and the United States have always been fully prepared to prevent unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the region and destabilize it by force.”
Landing platform dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) is also operating in the Philippine Sea to perform routine operations, according to a Pentagon news release. Meanwhile, expeditionary support base USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5) is on a scheduled visit to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and submarine USS Alexandria (SSN-757) arrived at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka on Monday for a scheduled port visit.