The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet has revealed that U.S. Marines in Okinawa Prefecture have conducted an unusual joint drill with the nuclear submarine USS Ohio, which is used in special operations, in waters near the prefecture.
The drill was conducted on the day after a controversial Chinese law came into effect to enable coast guard ships to use weapons against what Beijing sees as violations of Chinese sovereignty or jurisdiction.
Chinese coast guard ships have repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa. China claims the islands, which it calls Diaoyu.
The U.S. drill is believed to have been designed for the defense of remote islands, in a warning against China’s attempts to change the status quo by force.
According to the 7th Fleet and other sources, the Feb. 2 exercise was joined by a reconnaissance unit of the Marine Corps’ III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa and the USS Ohio.
Marines traveled by inflatable combat rafts to a point where the USS Ohio was standing by and got onboard. The drill apparently simulated information-gathering activity in an emergency.
The Marine Corps in Okinawa said it will continue expanding opportunities for joint exercise with the 7th Fleet in order to address emergencies in the Indo-Pacific region.
The USS Ohio is equipped with Tomahawk antisurface cruise missiles and sophisticated communications functions. It also has hangars to house small submersible vessels and boats used by special operations forces. Location information about the target obtained by special operations forces is shared with Aegis-class vessels and warplanes.
On Feb. 4, the U.S. Forces Japan deployed the state-of-the-art Aegis destroyer USS Rafael Peralta at the Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, where the USS Ohio is based.
The U.S. military is expected to strengthen cooperation with the Self-Defense Forces mainly through joint drills, as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to work closely with allies in order to counter China.
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