Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Japan, US navies conduct joint drill in East China Sea

REGIONAL EXERCISES:Four vessels from the two nations drilled to increase proficiency in basic skills, with an aircraft carrier to join S Korea-US exercises

AFP, TOKYO

The US and Japanese navies yesterday said they completed a four-day joint exercise in the East China Sea, as tension intensifies in the region following North Korea’s missile tests.

The training, characterized by Japanese media essentially as a show-of-force exercise, coincided with renewed tensions in the region after North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launches earlier this week.

The US Navy’s USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and USS Wayne E. Meyer guided missile destroyer joined the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Sazanami and Samidare destroyers in the East China Sea to “increase proficiency in basic maritime skills and improve response capabilities,” the US Navy said in a statement.

The exercises focused on “tactical training,” the Japanese navy said in a separate statement, without elaborating.

However, Japan’s conservative Sankei Shimbun said the drill was aimed at issuing a warning against nuclear-armed North Korea by “exhibiting the strength and deterrent power of the Japan-US alliance.”

The joint drill commenced one day after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles on Monday, with three landing provocatively close to Japan, which the US is obligated to defend under a security treaty.

Pyongyang has claimed the launch was a training exercise for a strike on US bases in Japan supervised by leader Kim Jong-un.

Seoul and Washington are separately carrying out annual joint military exercises in South Korea.

The Japan-US training exercise was also meant to display their joint presence in the East China Sea, where Japan and China are locked in a long-running dispute over the uninhabited Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which are known as the Senkakus in Japan, the Sankei said.

Taiwan also claims the islands.

Successive US administrations have assured Japan that the islands fall under their security treaty, meaning if they are attacked the US would defend them.

The Carl Vinson was expected to join the South Korea-US drills after the exercise with Japan, the Sankei said.

The two sets of exercises come as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit South Korea, Japan and China next week on his first trip to the region since he became US President Donald Trump’s top diplomat.

US Pacific Command on Monday said that the US had begun deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea, which is designed to defend the US ally from a North Korean attack.

The deployment has outraged Pyongyang ally Beijing, which strongly opposes it as a challenge to its security ambitions in the region.

China said that it was “firmly opposed” to the deployment and vowed to “resolutely take necessary measures” to defend its security interests.

China has argued that the deployment would further destabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

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