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Japan spots Chinese and Russian warships sailing through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time

Chinese and Russian warships have been spotted for the first time sailing through international waters at the Tsugaru Strait located between Japan's main islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on 18 October.

The MoD said it is the first time that the ministry spotted Chinese and Russian warships going through the strait simultaneously. It noted that a total of 10 ships were identified.

The MoD said Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force minesweepers JS Izushima and JS Aoshima as well as P-3C maritime patrol aircraft confirmed that five of the vessels belonged to the Chinese Navy – including one Type 055 (Renhai-class) destroyer – while the other five belonged to the Russian Navy, including two Udaloy-class destroyers.

The vessels were spotted about 110 km southwest of Hokkaido's Okushiri Island in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea) at around 08.00 hrs local time, said the MoD, adding that they entered the Pacific Ocean through the Tsugaru Strait in the afternoon.

This comes after China and Russia had conducted a joint annual naval exercise called β€˜Joint Sea 2021' in the Sea of Japan from 14 to17 October that featured 15 naval vessels, including destroyers and submarines. A further 12 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were also deployed during the manoeuvres, which included anti-submarine warfare drills.

Some of the vessels spotted sailing through the Tsugaru Strait are believed to have taken part in the annual bilateral exercise series, the first iteration of which took place in 2012.

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