Japan to hold 1st large-scale military drills with US and France amid South China Sea tensions
The announcement of the joint exercise was made by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) and the defense minister on Friday, as the nation aims to strengthen its military cooperation with allies in the region.
“By strengthening cooperation between Japan, the United States and France, we’d like to further improve the tactics and skills of the Self-Defense Forces in defending remote island territories,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said, in an apparent jab at China’s claim over islands in the East and South China Seas.
Relations have become strained between China and Japan over activity around disputed land in the region, known by Tokyo as the Senkaku Islands, and Beijing as the Diaoyu Islands, which both sides claim as their own territory.
Chinese ships have entered the territorial waters around the islands in recent weeks and America recently held a sole military drill around the island, although no US troops landed on the territory and Japan didn’t participate.
The three-nation military drills come as the Philippines has protested directly to China for failing to remove its ships from the South China Sea. Manilla argues that hundreds of Chinese military vessels are encroaching on disputed sections of the South China Sea, while Beijing claims that no soldiers are present and that they are only fishing ships.
Beijing has defended its right to claim territory in the East and South China Seas, using a line of demarcation known as the ‘nine-dash line’ to claim it has historic rights to control of the area. China has rejected allegations of military aggression to secure control of the region, claiming it is simply protecting an area that already belongs to them, upholding their “sovereignty, rights and interests.”