The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group has kicked off bilateral exercises with the Maritime Self-Defense Force, including one of the largest vessels in Japan’s fleet, in the disputed South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said Tuesday.
The navy, which said the Vinson was on a “regularly scheduled deployment in the Western Pacific,” said the Vinson and the USS Wayne E. Meyer guided-missile destroyer were conducting combined operations with the MSDF’s Ise helicopter destroyer as part of drills aimed at bolstering maritime interoperability between the long-standing allies.
The navy said the exercises had kicked off Sunday as both ships transited the South China Sea.
This didn’t mean the two navies would remain in the same location for the duration of the exercise, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a spokesman for the Vinson strike group, told The Japan Times, adding that he wouldn’t discuss specifics regarding future ship movements for security reasons.
Hawkins said the exact duration of the exercises would be announced later, but added that “it will last more than several days.”
The navy said that as part of the exercise, four MSDF liaison officers had embarked on the Vinson to support combined operations. The operations will include formation steaming as well as anti-submarine and air-defense training, and the Ise will also conduct a replenishment-at-sea with the Vinson.
“Collaborating with maritime partners in open seas is how we have maintained security, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific for more than 70 years,” he said. “Carl Vinson operated with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force last year, and we are doing so again this year.”