China is unlikely to take part in an Asian security drill scheduled to begin
off Shanghai on Saturday, the Japan Coast Guard said.
Japan Coast Guard (JCG) special rescue unit
members hoist an imaginary castaway to a JCG helicopter as a JCG
fire-fighting vessel sprays water to a mock burning boat during their
annual fleet review and exercise demonstration at Tokyo Bay in Tokyo May
27, 2006. [AP]
China, the United States, South Korea, Canada and Russia are all scheduled to
take part in the drill. The event would have been the first time China had
participated in such a joint exercise.
"We are still hoping that the Chinese will take part, but the prospects are
not good," said one Japan Coast Guard official.
Japanese coast guard officials co-ordinating the event have stressed that the
exercise is not connected to the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative
(PSI) because no military forces are involved.
The drill scenario is based on a simulation of a suspicious ship being
refused entry to the port of Shanghai and then being tracked by Chinese and
other coast guard ships in turn.
The initial plan released by Japan's Coast Guard had referred to the ship
being from a country suspected of exporting weapons of mass destruction. A
revised scenario removed this reference and instead spoke of a "ship suspected
of smuggling goods and people."
"This has absolutely nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction," the
Japan Coast Guard official said. "It is a security drill, but somehow it seems
to have been misunderstood."
Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand are the only
Asia-Pacific region countries to publicly support the PSI, although the group
says it has backing from more than 60 states.
China and South Korea have been reluctant to join the initiative, apparently
to avoid offending North Korea, the nation with nuclear ambitions that are the
subject of stalled six-party talks.
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Sequoia acting as the "suspicious" vessel failed to
leave Shanghai as scheduled at 1 p.m., the Japan Coast Guard official said,
adding that the reasons for the delay were not clear.
"We want to watch out for the Sequoia's departure. If the Chinese do not join
at that point, then we will know for sure they are not taking part," he said.
The joint exercises will take place in the East China Sea, where Japan and
China are in dispute over gas fields and sovereignty over a group of small
The drill is likely to proceed even if China does not take part, the Japan
Coast Guard said.