The message is in the timing and location of joint U.S.-Japan live-fire exercises next week off the coast of California — four days after President Obama meets in the same area of Southern California with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The war games, called Dawn Blitz 2013, will simulate an amphibious landing assault to retake an island — California’s San Clemente Island. It is a realistic threat considering recent Chinese naval activities over the disputed Senkaku islands and China’s more recent claims to Japan’s Okinawa.
China asked that the exercises be called off because the war games will held four days after the U.S.-Chinese summit at the Sunny-lands estate near Palm Springs, according to U.S. officials.
The Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, will be the headquarters for the exercises.
The drills will include amphibious assaults, live-fire drills and mine operations. Japanese participation includes Self-Defense Forces troops aboard large air-cushion landing craft and two destroyers.
The Pentagon says the exercises are not aimed at China. Marine Corps and Navy statements said the war games involve “U.S. and allied forces against a hypothetical adversary.”
“Dawn Blitz will involve fictional countries and virtual opposing forces with no basis on any current geopolitical situation,” said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Katie Cerezo.
Chinese naval forces have been conducting “maritime surveillance” missions throughout the East China Sea, where the Senkakus are located, and the South China Sea. One Navy officer has referred to the naval activity as “bullying.”
Japan’s Defense Ministry released photos last week showing three Chinese warships close to Okinawa on May 27. They included a Luhu-class missile destroyer, a Jiangkai II-class frigate, and a Fuqing-class fleet oiler.
Chinese submarines were detected near Okinawa three times last month within 13 miles of the island’s coast.
According to Asahi, the Japanese newspaper that first reported Chinese opposition to the island assault exercise on Tuesday, U.S. and Japanese troops will land on an island and fire on enemy occupation forces.
The newspaper reported that Tokyo explained to Beijing that the exercise is not targeting a third country but is against a hypothetical adversary.
It will be the first time that Japanese ground, naval and air forces will take part in a U.S. exercise. It is part of Japan’s new policy of developing defenses for Japanese islands located between the main island of Kyushu and Taiwan.