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Japanese and U.S. troops will conduct defenses of Japan’s outlying islands for the first time in their biannual joint command post exercise, Kyodo News learned Thursday.

The exercise using maps and computers, commonly known as Yamasakura by the Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Army, will be held in January in Kumamoto Prefecture.

The new development reflects Japan’s wariness of China’s activities in surrounding waters, including the intrusion of a Chinese nuclear submarine into Japanese waters last November.

As with this year’s defense white paper, released Tuesday and outlining similar concerns, the exercise will probably draw criticism from Beijing.

Separately, the GSDF is scheduled to conduct field drills with the U.S. Marine Corps to step up bilateral security cooperation on defending outlying islands, sources said.

The exercise will come amid simmering tensions between Tokyo and Beijing, which are still at odds over long-standing territorial disputes and disputed natural gas drilling projects in the East China Sea.

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