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China helps anti-piracy effort as it harries Japan’s coast guard

- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2013

The United States and China are conducting a joint anti-piracy naval exercise in the Arabian Sea, even as Chinese patrol ships in the East China Sea seek to "wear down" the maritime forces of the principal U.S. ally in the region — Japan.

The anti-piracy exercise, hosted by Pakistan and dubbed "AMAN-13," involves naval forces from 13 countries and observers from 20 others, according to Agence France-Press.

The five-day exercise, which began Monday with meetings and maneuvers in port, will end Friday and is aimed at "information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interest," Pakistan's navy said in a statement.

AMAN-13 is the fourth exercise since 2007 to "display united resolve against terrorism and crimes in maritime domain," the statement said.

Shipping lanes between South Asia and the Arabian Gulf have been plagued by attacks from Somali pirates, who have seized dozens of ships and earned millions of dollars in ransom.

China previously has participated in the exercises and in U.N.-backed international naval deployments in the region to curb piracy.

But in the East China Sea, China is flexing its maritime muscles in a dispute with Japan over sovereignty of a tiny chain of islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Reuters news agency reports that Chinese navy and civilian patrol vessels are conducting almost daily operations around the islands and that the Japanese coast guard is "feeling the pressure."

Experts say the Chinese strategy is "to overwhelm the numerically inferior Japanese forces that must sail out to detect and track the [Chinese] flotillas."

"The operational goal in the East China Sea is to wear out the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard," James Holmes, a maritime strategy expert at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., told Reuters.

The islands, in the midst of rich fishing waters and atop potentially vast reserves of oil and gas, were seized by Japan before World War II but were not returned to China after Japan's defeat.

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