Japan, India hold maritime drills off South Asian nation’s east coast


TOKYO — Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force said Tuesday it has been conducting exercises with the Indian Navy in waters off the South Asian nation’s east coast amid China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

The MSDF helicopter carrier Izumo and destroyer Takanami have joined the weeklong drills that began on Sunday in the area stretching from the Andaman Sea to the strategically important Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean, with India’s destroyer Ranvijay and frigate Sahyadri also participating.

The exercises come after Japan and India held “two-plus-two” security talks in Tokyo last Thursday, where their foreign and defense ministers agreed on enhancing bilateral defense cooperation, including joint exercises.

The two countries also agreed to conduct their first joint fighter jet drill at an early date.

Conducting drills would “contribute greatly to the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Adm. Ryo Sakai, chief of staff of the MSDF, said at a press conference on Tuesday, vowing to “continue efforts to strengthen cooperation between Japan and India.”

India has also sent aircraft to the drills, which will last until Saturday. According to the MSDF, the ongoing training includes exercises against submarine and aerial attacks and shooting drills.

Also Tuesday, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force said it had conducted joint exercises with US forces last Friday in the Sea of Japan off the western side of Aomori Prefecture with a total of 25 aircraft from both sides, mostly fighter jets.

The drills were conducted in a show of force to keep the military assertiveness of Moscow and Beijing in check following Russia-initiated multinational military exercises around the Sea of Japan earlier this month.

China also participated in the exercises that included shooting drills by Chinese and Russian warships.

According to the ASDF, the drills involved four F-15s from Chitose Air Base on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, while the Northern Aircraft Control and Warning Wing, which monitor radar, from Misawa Air Base in Aomori also joined the exercises.

From the US forces, 15 F-16 jets from Misawa base and two KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft from Kadena Air Base in the southernmost Okinawa Prefecture participated, as well as four F-35 stealth fighter jets from the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture. — Kyodo

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