10 Russian warships pass through Tsugaru Strait

Courtesy of the Defense Ministry/Jiji Press
A Russian Udaloy-class destroyer sails in waters off southern Hokkaido on Thursday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Ten Russian navy ships have passed through the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokakido, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

In February, the navy conducted a large-scale maritime exercise in Russia’s Far East region in step with Russian forces stationed around Ukraine. The 10 warships are believed to have participated in that exercise.

“It is concerning that the Russian military is stepping up operations around Japan while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told a press conference Friday. “We will keep a close watch with a sense of tension,” he added. Kishi also said that Japan has expressed its concern through diplomatic channels.

Around 2 a.m. Thursday, Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol aircraft found the 10 ships, including a Udaloy-class destroyer, sailing in the Pacific Ocean at a point some 180 kilometers east-northeast of Cape Erimo in Hokkaido, according to the ministry.

The 10 ships passed through the Tsugaru Strait from Thursday night to early Friday, heading for the Sea of Japan. It appears that they did not intruded into Japanese territorial waters.

The sailing of Russian navy vessels in the Tsugaru Strait was the first since last October, when Russian and Chinese warships passed through the strait together.

The Self-Defense Forces is closely monitoring the Russian moves, which could have been demonstration actions in response to Japan’s sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and Japanese support for the country under attack.

The Tsugaru Strait is designated as an international strait, meaning that areas 3 nautical miles or more from the coasts is regarded the same as the high seas and therefore open to foreign ships.