• Kyodo

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Japan and the U.K. will hold a joint military drill in the Gulf of Aden in the near future to demonstrate their cooperation in various geographical areas, according to Japanese government sources.

The drill will involve Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force units currently engaged in an antipiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and a British aircraft carrier strike group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy's largest warship, they said.

The strike group left the U.K. in May for the western Pacific, to show London's increased engagement in the Indo-Pacific amid China's growing maritime assertiveness in the region.

The joint military exercise in the Gulf of Aden may also be joined by U.S. and Dutch naval vessels accompanying the British strike group, according to the sources.

Japan and the U.K. are also expected to hold a joint drill around September when the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier group, which also includes destroyers and a submarine, makes a port call in Japan.

The British vessels are scheduled to head north in the Sea of Japan and pass through the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the Japanese main islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, before arriving at the city of Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture, the sources said.

The sources have said that Japanese and British defense ministers are set to hold talks in Tokyo around July 20 to coordinate joint exercises.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and his British counterpart, Ben Wallace, are also expected to discuss issues related to China's growing military influence in the East and South China seas while reaffirming their commitment to promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region.

A meeting may also be set between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Wallace, the sources said.

They will also discuss strengthening defense cooperation, including developing engines for the Air Self-Defense Force's next fighter jet.

As part of its seven-month journey, the British group is set to make port visits to around 40 nations including South Korea, India and Singapore and conduct military exercises with them in an attempt to bolster security ties.

Amid China's growing clout in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan has been deepening cooperation with multiple countries including those in Europe. In May, Japan, the United States and France held a large-scale joint exercise in southwestern Japan that involved urban warfare and amphibious operation drills.

Beijing is engaged in territorial disputes in the East and South China seas with its neighbors.

Japan has been angered by repeated intrusions into its territorial waters around the Tokyo-administered Senkaku Islands by Chinese vessels. The islands in the East China Sea are claimed by Beijing, which calls them Diaoyu.

France, which has dispatched a naval vessel to Japan, 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.

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