Japan is sending a massive helicopter destroyer — one of the largest warships in its fleet — for joint military exercises Sunday with three U.S. aircraft carriers in the waters near the Korean Peninsula.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force warships Inazuma and Makinami will escort the helicopter destroyer Ise to the exercises with the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Ronald Reagan as well as the USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier strike groups in the East China Sea and Sea of Japan, the MSDF said in a statement Friday.
Also Friday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said seven of the country’s warships, including two Aegis vessels, would join drills with the U.S. carriers over the weekend, the Yonhap news agency reported.
The rare three-carrier strike force exercises kicked off Saturday in the Sea of Japan and will run through Tuesday in a show of force that coincides with the final leg of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Asia tour.
It is the first time three carrier strike groups have operated together in the area since 2007, and comes amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula over Pyongyang’s nuclear arms and ballistic missile programs.
The move is widely seen as a push by Washington to demonstrate its commitment to its allies in the region, including Japan, amid the uptick in tensions with North Korea.
The MSDF said it was “using every opportunity” to strengthen the two navies’ ties, and joining the three-carrier flotilla for drills was “natural” as part of efforts “to stabilize … regional security.”
Ahead of the planned drill, two Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighter jets carried out a drill with F/A-18 jets launched from the Reagan.