Tokyo, Dec 7 (efe-epa).- Japan and the United States armies on Monday let journalists witness large-scale joint military drills and their defense interoperability in the Japanese archipelago amid China’s expanding influence in the region.
The defense ministry said the Yama Sakura war games have been going on since Dec 2 in the Kumamoto prefecture and held by the two countries to take countermeasures against imaginary attacks on remote islands in the region.
“For a free and open Indo-Pacific region, improving joint operational capabilities is an urgent task,” Lt. Gen. Ryoji Takemoto, head of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, Western Division, told the media, according to state-run Kyodo news agency.
Some 4,000 Japanese soldiers and around 1,000 US troops, including those participating remotely online, are involved in the simulation-based tabletop drill, which will last until Dec 15.
The Yama Sakura drills, which both armies have carried out since 1982, is one of their largest-scale joint exercises.
The armed forces of the two countries also began on Monday another military exercise, Forest Light, which will last until Dec 18 in Niigata and Gunma prefectures, northwest of Tokyo.
The exercise involves the deployment of CH-47 helicopters and MV-22s, the Marine variant of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
“We are engaging in a variety of training in our interoperability. We are working on the ability to seize and defend key maritime terrain,” Lt. Col. Neil Berry, the commanding officer of the Marines’ 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment, told Kyodo News before the exercise began.
“(The drill) should give confidence to not only the Japanese Self- Defense Forces and the American Marines but all of our partners and allies in the region that we’re ready to stand shoulder to shoulder in this region against whatever adversaries pop up,” Berry said.
Allowing the media to witness the bilateral military exercises came at a time of growing tension in the wake of China’s rising activities in the region and, more specifically, due to the territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing around the Senkaku Islands.
Chinese ships frequently enter the waters of this archipelago, administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.
Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger earlier voiced opposition to China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region in their meeting in Tokyo last month. EFE-EPA