National

Japan, U.S. to conduct joint military drill for island defense

Reuters

The central government has said it plans to hold a bilateral military exercise with the United States in November to ensure smooth joint operations between the two countries’ militaries and to bolster island defense capabilities.

The field drill, called Keen Sword, is held every two years. It comes as Japan is engaged in a bitter island row with China, which is rapidly ramping up military spending, and amid concern over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

The joint exercise is set to run Nov. 8 to 19, the government said on Tuesday. It is not targeted at any particular country, a Defense Ministry official said. About 10,000 U.S. service members and 30,700 Japanese personnel will participate in the drill.

The maritime portion of Keen Sword will be held east of Kyushu, but not in the East China Sea, which lies on the other side of the island, the Defense Ministry said.

Tension between China and Japan flared in 2012 after Tokyo nationalized three of the disputed East China Sea islets, called the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Patrol ships and military aircraft from both countries have routinely shadowed each other near the tiny, uninhabited islands since then, stoking fears that an unintended collision or other incident could develop into a larger clash.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a historic step away from Japan’s postwar pacifism in July by ending a ban that has kept its military from fighting abroad.

The move was welcomed by the United States, Japan’s security ally, but angered China, whose ties with Japan have frayed over the territorial dispute and the legacy of past Japanese military aggression.

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