• Kyodo

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The Ground Self-Defense Force will hold joint drills with the U.S. Marine Corps and the French army in southwestern Japan from May 11 to 17, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Friday.

The first large-scale exercise in Japan involving ground troops from the three countries comes as Tokyo seeks to deepen defense cooperation beyond ally the United States to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the South and East China seas.

“France shares the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. By strengthening cooperation between Japan, the United States and France, we’d like to further improve tactics and skills of the Self-Defense Forces in defending remote island territories,” Kishi said at a news conference.

Paris has strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific where it has territories, including the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and French Polynesia in the South Pacific.

The joint drills will be held at the GSDF Kirishima training ground and Camp Ainoura in the Kyushu region and involve urban warfare and amphibious operation exercises, according to the Defense Ministry.

The GSDF rapid amphibious deployment brigade, dubbed “Japanese Marines,” will be among the units participating in the exercises, while the ministry said it is coordinating joint drills between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the French navy during the same period.

The French army units will arrive at Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture aboard France’s Jeanne d’Arc training fleet, it said.

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