After their provocative sail through of the Tsugaru Strait on Monday, a narrow chokepoint waterway through Japan, a large group of Chinese PLA and Russian warships have continued encircling Japan during an Indo-Pacific patrol mission that's gone into the weekend.
Russian media cited the country's defense ministry as follows on Saturday: "Russian and Chinese navy vessels have completed their first joint patrol mission in the Pacific Ocean, covering a distance of over 1,700 nautical miles (around 3,100km) in a week." It included at least ten warships, with Russia's military releasing some stunning footage of the large naval group.
Though irking and alarming Tokyo, also given this is the closest that such a joint Russia-China naval patrol has come to Japan's coast (though Tsugaru is considered an international waters transit point), the Japanese Navy after closely monitoring their movements later said there's as yet been no violation of Japan's territorial waters.
Chinese state media hailed the joint patrol mission as a crucial counterweight to the US presence and Washington's "destabilization" of the region.
For example, in state-run Global Times:
The Chinese-Russian joint naval flotilla that transited the Tsugaru Strait days ago has since sailed along the east side of Japan's main island to its south, almost making a circle around the island country, in a move Chinese experts said on Friday can bring balance to regional stability at a time when the US, Japan and other Western forces have been colluding to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.
Joint China Russian fleet currently conducting Freedom of Navigation Patrol around Japanese Islands after military drills in Sea of Japan pic.twitter.com/zZyhfvTdYF— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) October 22, 2021
Here's more from GT, suggesting Beijing and Moscow are sending a loud and clear message to the continued heightened presence of the US in the region:
Encircling Japan, particularly sailing to the east side of Japan, is of significance because many key military installations are located on that side, including the US Navy base in Yokosuka, a Chinese military expert who requested for anonymity told the Global Times on Friday.
Many US military provocations on China in places like the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea were launched from these bases, the expert said, noting that the joint patrol by Chinese and Russian vessels could be seen as a warning to the US and Japan, which have been rallying up to confront China and Russia, serve the goals of US hegemony and undermine regional peace and stability.
Indeed it appears this exercise was designed to show the "reach" of these two military superpowers' navies in cooperation, at a moment the two countries are growing increasingly close in terms of strategically coordinating to oppose Washington aims, particularly in the East.