US, Japan, Australia conduct drills in South China Sea

Vessels belonging to the US, Japanese and Australian navies gathered in the South China Sea for trilateral naval exercises.

The US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) joined the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) HMAS Arunta (FFH 151) and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF) JS Kirisame (DD 104) on October 19.

As informed, these exercises marked the fifth time of 2020 that Australia, Japan, and the U.S. have conducted operations together in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

Photo: US Navy

Throughout the naval exercises, participants trained together and conducted trilateral operations designed to increase the allies’ collective ability to maintain maritime security and readiness to respond to any regional contingency.

HMAS Arunta’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Troy Duggan said Australia was continuing to build on its already close relationship with Japan and the United States.

“This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations,” said Duggan.

“Operating with our partners is essential for building and maintaining high levels of interoperability, and contributes to our shared commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.”

Operations together included surface, subsurface, and air defense exercises, and a variety of other training events to strengthen regional maritime security operations.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity of the trilateral exercise with the United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy,” Yokota Kazushi, Commander, JMSDF escort division eight, said.

“For the regional peace and stability, we are making efforts to maintain and develop a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The iron bond with our partners is its foundation. Even though COVID-19 spreads, the JMSDF continues to strengthen the relationship with our ally partners.”

“By operating with our close allies in this way, here in the South China Sea, we promote transparency, the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, all principles that underpin security and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific, so that all nations in the region may benefit,”  Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, commanding officer, USS John S. McCain, said.

Previous exercises this year involving the U.S., Japan, and Australia in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations include exercise Sea Dragon in February, a trilateral exercise with the Reagan Carrier Strike Group in late July, a multinational group sail with USS Barry (DDG 52) in early September, which also included the Republic of Korea Navy, and Exercise Pacific Vanguard in mid-September.

Photo: US Navy

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