The Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted trilateral military exercises with the Australian Defence Force and the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group on the doorstep of the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday.
The move, the latest show of naval might in the waters, was sure to anger China.
The exercises in the Philippine Sea by the navies, which began Sunday, are seen as a chance to emphasize all three nations’ commitment to the so-called “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” coined by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I believe strengthening cooperation with the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy is vitally important for Japan, and also contributes to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific in the region,” Capt. Yusuke Sakano, commander of the MSDF’s Escort Division 4, said in a statement. “The experience in this exercise will give us tactical and operational advantages and make our friendships stronger, in addition to our regular joint exercises with both like-minded navies.”