Japan has joined the United States and Australia in a huge joint military exercise on Sunday, as tensions with china over a territory dispute remain high.
The war games named ‘Talisman Sabre’ are expected to last for two weeks and take place in the Northern Territory and Queensland state with over 30,000 military personnel.
Some 40 personnel from Japan’s army — the Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) — will join the American contingent, while more than 500 troops from New Zealand are also involved in the exercise, which concludes on July 21.
“It is a very, very important alliance,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday in Sydney on board the USS Blue Ridge, which is taking part in the exercise, referring to Australia-US ties.
“It’s a very important relationship and right now we are facing quite significant challenges in many parts of the world but particularly in the Middle East.”
The war games, being held for the sixth time, come as China flexes its strategic and economic muscle in the region.
Beijing has been building artificial islands and facilities in disputed waters in the South China Sea, and has a separate territorial dispute with Japan over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands — which it calls the Diaoyus — in the East China Sea.
“There’s subtle message going out that at every level — from hardware to technical and strategic expertise and cooperation – the main American allies and America are working very closely together largely to account for China,” John Lee, a China specialist at the University of Sydney, told AFP.
“It’s definitely linked to the notion that China is becoming more assertive and that it seems to be putting money into military capabilities to back up its assertiveness in the South China Sea in particular.”
Beijing rejected US criticism of its reclamation works in the South China Sea during the annual Shangri-La Dialogue meeting in May, saying it was just exercising its sovereignty.
The US has been pursuing a foreign policy “pivot” towards Asia, which has rattled China, and is rotating Marines through northern Australia — a move announced by President Barack Obama in 2011.
America’s other allies — such as Singapore, Malaysia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines — would be supportive of the exercise, as well as Australia and Japan’s activities in the region, Lee added.
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