The US and Japan are continuing the efforts to thwart Chinese influence in the Indo- Pacific region with joint military drills.
Last week, Japanese Lockheed Martin F-35 trained alongside the U.S. Navy’s USS America LHA-6 in western Pacific with the aim to “increase the tactical proficiency, lethality and interoperability of the amphibious forces of the America Expeditionary Strike Group and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) in the maritime domain.”
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China has been making maritime claims in the South and East China Seas and its aspirations to claim Taiwan have further escalated the tensions in the region. The Indo-Pacific region holds immense importance as it connects large swathes of the globe as Beijing has been relentlessly trying to dominate the strategic water-ways.
The F-35A and LHA-6 ran through tactics, techniques, and procedures as part of air defence and sea control missions exercise in the Pacific.
The aircraft as a force multiplier has a lot to offer for a warship equipped to deal with the type due to its significant electronic intelligence gathering capabilities, advanced sensors, data fusion, and networking capabilities.
The US-Japan drills reflect deepening cooperation between the countries against China’s hostile manoeuvres in the region. In response to Chinese aggression, the US Coast Guard is planning to base Enhanced Response Cutters in the western Pacific for maritime security missions, the Reuters has quoted U.S. national security adviser Robert O’ Brien as saying.
Citing the illegal fishing and harassment of vessels by China, O’Brien said in a statement that the Coast Guard has planned to evaluate next fiscal year the feasibility of basing Fast Response Cutters in American Samoa in the South Pacific.
The statement terming the US as a Pacific power said China’s “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific threatens our sovereignty, as well as the sovereignty of our Pacific neighbours and endangers regional stability.”
O’Brien stated that enhancing the USCG presence will make the US “maritime partner of choice in the region” as they will conduct maritime security missions, such as fisheries patrols, and enhance maritime-domain awareness and enforcement efforts in collaboration with regional partners.
The US national security adviser’s comments have come ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s visit to India, which will likely result in the signing of the fourth military pact – Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) – between the two countries.
India is amongst one of the countries which have become the target of China’s rising aggression. With the six-month military stand-off in the Himalayas, the military pact with the US is being termed as essential by experts for India’s posture against Beijing.
Earlier this month, Pompeo had led a meeting of India, Japan, Australia and US in Tokyo, the Quad which is coming together as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness and extensive maritime claims in the region. The Quad foreign ministers’ meet had witnessed four countries expressing support for free and open Pacific.
“As partners in this Quad, it is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the [Chinese Communist Party’s] exploitation, corruption and coercion,” Pompeo had said during the meeting.
Further reflecting the cooperation between the Quad countries are the upcoming Malabar exercise in November, which will be joined by the Australian Navy for the first time. The annual maritime drills were held between the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific by only American, Indian and Japanese forces but Australia’s decision to join the exercise comes in the backdrop of China’s aggressive behaviour.