The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier will lead Japanese destroyers and Canadian warships in a combat readiness war game slated to be the largest that Tokyo has yet joined.
Japan and the United States hold reportedly mobilized some 57,000 sailors, marines and members of the air forces for named ‘Keen Sword’: the biggest joint war game in Japanese history.
Japan’s contingent in the exercise will represent a fifth of the nation’s armed forces. In the 2016 simulated air combat and amphibious landings exercise the joint military personnel was estimated to be some 11,000 less, Reuters reported.
“We are here to stabilize, and preserve our capability should it be needed. Exercises like Keen Sword are precisely the kind of thing we need to carryout,” Rear Admiral Karl Thomas, the commander of the US carrier strike group, said during a news event.
Chief of US Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, on Thursday noted that Keen Sword “remains an expression of the commitment of like-minded allies and partners to really see what we can carryout in terms of demonstrating advanced capabilities together to ensure peace and stability in the Indo Pacific.”
The USS Ronald Reagan will be accompanied by eight other US warships for anti-submarine warfare drills. Currently based in Yokosuka near Tokyo, the American supercarrier is the biggest US warship in Asia, with a crew of some 5,000 sailors and a complement of around 90 F-18 Super Hornets fighters.
“The US-Japan alliance is fundamental for stability in this region and the wider Indo Pacific,” stated Rear Admiral Hiroshi Egawa, the commander of the Japanese ships involved in the exercise.
Keen Sword will be joined by a Canadian naval supply ship, which arrived to the war games on Saturday. Canada’s defense attache in Japan, Captain Hugues Canuel, said that Canadian participation reflects Ottowa’s desire to hold a military presence in Asia.
British, French, Australian and South Korean observers will monitor Keen Sword, which began Monday, October 29, and will discontinue Thursday, November 8.
Keen Sword is the latest in a series of Japanese power moves occurring amid a growing Chinese military presence in the region. Earlier this year Tokyo sent its largest warship, the helicopter carrier Kaga, on a two-month tour of the Indo Pacific, including stops in the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Singapore. Also, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force ship and its two destroyer escorts conducted drills in the contested South China Sea.
Beijing plans to spend a reported 1.11 trillion yuan ($160 billion) on its armed forces this year, according to Reuters. That figure is more than three times as much as Japan and about a third of what the US military will spend over the same period on the defense of the Japanese islands.