Japan reportedly plans to send its largest warship through the South China Sea, a move that Chinese experts said would demonstrate Japan's determination to interfere in the maritime disputes.
Reuters reported on Monday that Japan plans to dispatch the helicopter carrier Izumo on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, which is the biggest show of naval force in the region since World War II.
Commissioned only two years ago, the Izumo will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval forces in the Indian Ocean in July.
"We noticed that Japan has fomented some dissension and stirred up enmity on the South China Sea issue," Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, said at a news conference Tuesday, adding that China hopes Japan can play a responsible role in regional peace and stability.
Hua said the purpose of Izumo's visit remains unknown. It is fine if the warship just passes through the South China Sea on its way to some Southeast Asian countries," said Hua.
However, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times that by sending its largest warship, Japan shows "firm determination" to intervene in the South China Sea issue.
By interfering in the marine controversy, which is irrelevant to Japan, Tokyo is attempting to enhance its military cooperation with the US and help the latter strengthen its influence in the region, said Li.
Reuters quoted the source as saying that "the aim is to test the Izumo's capabilities by sending it out on an extended mission … It will train with the US Navy in the South China Sea."
Li said Japan's move also aims to impede China's safety and economic development so that Japan can have a greater say in the Asia-Pacific region.
Japan also wants to join hands with other countries in Southeast Asia in order to isolate China and makes it easier for it to mess with the region, said Li.
Reuters reported that Japan wants to invite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the Izumo when it visits Subic Bay, about 100 kilometers west of Manila. But Duterte replied, "If I have time."