The Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. military were likely hoping to get China’s attention on Monday, conducting a large-scale joint drill while launching another exercise amid Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the East and South China seas, according to Kyodo.
The two exercises, Yama Sakura (mountain cherry blossom) in Kumamoto Prefecture and Forest Light in Niigata and Gunma prefectures, focus on scenarios in which Japan and the United States take countermeasures against attacks on remote islands — such as the Japanese-administered, China-claimed Senkakus — by adversaries.
But it’s not just the U.S. and SDF that are linking up in response to China. In a rare development, the British Navy will dispatch an aircraft carrier strike group to waters near Japan, including off the Nansei Island chain, for joint exercises as soon as early next year, Kyodo reports.
Not to be outdone, France is also joining the mix with planned joint land and sea military drills with Japan and the U.S. next May, Reuters reports, citing local media. “This is a message aimed at China. This is a message about multilateral partnerships and the freedom of passage,” according to Adm. Pierre Vandier, chief of staff of the French Navy.
Japan had in 2016 planned to sail a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship into an area claimed by China as its territorial waters in the South China Sea, in response to a similar move by China in Japanese waters to the north, Kyodo reported last month. The planned move, a Japanese equivalent of the “freedom of navigation operations” conducted by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, was never carried out, however, over concerns that going ahead with it would seriously harm bilateral ties.