Defense Asia | security | East Asia
Japan is seeking to expand its military ties beyond its alliance with the United States to include “like-minded” countries like France.
Japanese ground troops joined their American and French counterparts in their first three-way exercise on Japanese lands, as they sought to strengthen military ties amid an increasingly assertive Chinese backdrop in the region.
Exercise “ARC21” began Tuesday at the Ainoura base of the Ground Self-Defense Force in Nagasaki Prefecture. Japan is seeking to expand its military ties beyond its alliance with the United States to include “like-minded” countries like France, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters.
He said that France, the only European country with a permanent military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, is “a like-minded country that shares with Japan the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific”. He said Japan welcomes France’s participation in the region and hopes to further expand the partnership.
About 100 Japanese soldiers, including Rapid Amphibious Deployment Units, or Japanese Marines, joined by 60 soldiers each from the French Army and the United States Marine Corps, are to conduct urban warfare exercises followed by drills to ‘amphibious operations as part of a scenario defending a remote island from enemy invasion.
On Tuesday, troops began three days of operations at Camp Ainoura in Nagasaki. Later in the week, they will fly to Kirishima training ground for an urban warfare exercise at a facility designed to simulate a remote island. Australian troops will also join part of the exercises in the East China Sea.
The exercise comes as Japan seeks to bolster its military capacity in a deepening territorial conflict with China in regional seas. Japan is increasingly concerned about Chinese activity in and around the waters claimed by Japan around the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and also calls Diaoyu.
France, which has territories in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, has strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
Britain, which recently adopted a policy of deeper engagement in the region, is sending the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its strike group, which are due to arrive in the region later this year. Germany is also on the verge of deploying a frigate to the region.
Kishi said that the growing interest in the Indo-Pacific region among European nations and their increased presence “contributes to peace and stability in the region”. He said the free and open Indo-Pacific concept does not target any particular country, such as China.
China has criticized the free and open Indo-Pacific vision as an exclusionist bloc based on a Cold War-era mindset.