The Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps kicked off one of the largest joint exercises in Japan on Saturday.

The Resolute Dragon 21 exercise involves about 1,400 GSDF troops and some 2,650 U.S. Marines. The GSDF’s Northeastern Army was participating in a joint drill with the U.S. military for the first time.

The exercise, which is focused on defending remote islands, aims to bolster cooperation and joint capacity between Japan and the United States to deal with contingencies.

The joint exercise is being conducted at the GSDF’s Hachinoe training area in Aomori Prefecture and the Yausubetsu training area in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. An opening ceremony was held on Saturday at the Ojojihara training area in Miyagi Prefecture.

In the exercise, which will continue until Dec. 17, Japanese and U.S. Marines will carry out transport training with the U.S. Marine Corps’ Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and antiship combat training using the GSDF’s surface-to-ship missiles and the Marine Corps’ High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

The ongoing drill is an alternative to the Northern Viper exercise, which was joined by the GSDF’s Northern Army in Hokkaido, and is aimed at increasing the number of GSDF units that can work with the U.S. Marines Corps.

The Defense Ministry is considering holding similar joint exercises for GSDF units from other parts of Japan from the next fiscal year.

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