The Maritime Self-Defense Force will participate in a multilateral mine-sweeping exercise between June 10 and June 22 in the Malacca Strait, the Defense Agency said Saturday.

The Western Pacific mine-sweeping drill, which involves the navies of six countries — Japan, Australia, the United States, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore — is being hosted by the Singapore Navy.

China, Russia, South Korea and nine other countries have been invited to take part in the exercise as observers.

The Malacca Strait is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

The MSDF said the exercise involves testing all aspects of mine-sweeping skills, from detection through disposal, with the use of dummy mines.

This is the first time since 1991 — when Japan helped out in mine-sweeping operations immediately after the Persian Gulf War — that Japan will be dispatching mine-sweepers on an overseas mission.

While the MSDF had participated in similar international drills in the past, the Malacca exercise will be the largest ever for the MSDF in terms of the number of participating countries.

The MSDF plans to send three mine-sweeping vessels to the exercise, involving a total of 230 MSDF personnel.

MSDF Chief of Staff Toru Ishikawa said no emergency scenarios are being planned for the exercise.

“The purpose of the drill is for each country to learn mine-sweeping skills and to deepen mutual understanding,” Ishikawa said.

Multilateral naval drills are becoming more common in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly those involving the U.S. Navy.

Last autumn, Japan joined the United States and South Korea for a four-nation submarine rescue exercise in the South China Sea off Singapore.

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