Japan Joins US-Australian Military Exercise in July for First Time

From the Guardian News:

flag-of-japanJapanese troops will take part in a major US-Australian military exercise for the first time in July, as Washington looks to strengthen links among its allies in the face of an increasingly assertive China.

Japan’s ground self-defence force – its army – will send 40 personnel to participate in Talisman Sabre, a two-yearly drill that begins on 7 July, which will involve about 27,000 service men and women, a Japanese government spokesman said.

“We will participate in joint exercises with the US marines, rather than operating directly with the Australian military,” he said.

“But our participation is seen as part of efforts” to strengthen defence ties between Japan and Australia.

The drill, in two places near Rockhampton and Darwin, is intended “to improve tactical expertise in amphibian operations and to strengthen Japan-US interoperability”.

News of Japan’s participation came as tensions remain high in the region, with increasing criticism of China’s behaviour in the South China Sea, where it has accelerated building artificial islands in disputed waters.

The US is considering sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles – the usual territorial zone around natural land – of the reclaimed reefs.

Such a deployment could lead to a standoff in a stretch of water traversed by vital global shipping lanes.

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