Japan/US Engage in Region’s Largest Military Exercise

June 5th, 2023 - by Dzirhan Mahadzir / USNI.org

USS Nimitz sails with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force 

Japan Self-Defense Forces Participating in
Second Iteration of US Large-Scale Global Exercise
Dzirhan Mahadzir / USNI.org

(May 26, 2023) — Japan’s three military branches will participate in the United States’ Large Scale Global Exercise 2023, according to a Wednesday news release from the Japanese Defense Ministry’s Joint Staff Office (JSO).

The Japan Self-Defense Forces will participate in the exercise around the Indo-Pacific from May 15 through Aug. 19. The drills hope to better the tactical skills of the JSDF, strengthen cooperation with the US and allied forces, and enhance interoperability and through such exercises, according to the news release.

LSE is an exercise hosted by US Indo-Pacific Command. This year’s drills are the second version of the exercise following LSGE 21 two years ago.

The US is coordinating with six other countries, but INDOPACOM did not disclose the names. LSGE 2021 involved the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs both issued news releases stating that it would host the Proliferation Security Initiative exercise Eastern Endeavor 23 on May 31 off Jeju Island, in which naval and air units from the ROK, the United States, Japan, Australia, Singapore, and Canada will interdict and board a ship suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction. The exercise will happen in conjunction with the ROK’s hosting of the PSI 20th Anniversary meeting from May 30 through June 2 on Jeju Island.

ROK Minister of Defense Lee Jong-sup, along with delegates from the meeting, will observe the drills from amphibious assault ship ROKS Marado (LPH-6112), according to the release, which did not disclose the ships or aircraft participating. But Japan’s JSO said Thursday that a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer would participate. Republic of Korea Navy destroyer ROKS Wang Geon (DDH-978), US Navy destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69), JMSDF destroyer JS Hamagiri (DD-155) and Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150) will join for the exercise, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday.

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group was south of the main island of Honshu based on a JMSDF release on Thursday. The CSG currently includes carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) with embarked Carrier Air Wing 17, cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) and destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108). The CSG was conducting tactical exercises from Tuesday to Wednesday with JMSDF destroyer JS Shiranui (DD-120). Both the Nimitz CSG and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are on standby to assist in disaster relief efforts on Guam after Super Typhoon Mawar blew over the island on Wednesday, USNI News previously reported.

Shiranui is part of the first surface unit of the JMSDF’s Indo-Pacific Deployment 2023 (IPD23) mission, according to the JMSDF, which has yet to announce the when the first and second IPD23 surface units will leave for the deployment. The JMSDF has been releasing regular activity reports on the third IPD23 surface unit that includes frigate JS Kumano (FFM-2), which left Yokosuka, Japan on April 20 and is currently at the Malaysian island of Langkawi participating in the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition held there.

The first IPD23 surface unit features destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyers Shiranui and JS Samidare (DD-106), while the second IPD23 surface unit includes landing ship tank JS Shimokita (LST-4002).

Meanwhile, Russian intelligence ships have transited Japan’s straits over the past week on two occasions, based on JSO news releases. On Friday at 9.30 a.m. local time, Russian Vishnya-class intelligence ship Kurily (208) was sighted sailing southeast, 186 miles northwest of Cape Tappi, which lies on the northwest of the main island of Honshu, according to a Monday JSO News release. From Friday to Saturday it sailed northeast through the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the main islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, and entered the Pacific Ocean.

Minesweeper JS Aoshima (MSC-689) and JMSDF P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 2 based at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu monitored the Russian ship. Then on Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time, Russian Vishnya-class intelligence ship Kareliya(535) was sighted sailing east, 31 miles northeast of Rebun Island, which lies 31 miles from the northwest tip of the main island of Hokkaido. The Russian ship subsequently transited east through La Pérouse Strait, which separates Hokkaido from Russia’s Sakhalin island. Multipurpose support ship JS Suo (AMS-4302) along with a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 2 shadowed the Russian ship.

Two People’s Liberation Army Navy ships transited through the Miyako Strait on Wednesday, according to a JSO news release. Destroyer CNS Jinan (152) and frigate CNS Binzhou (515) were sighted that day at 5 a.m., sailing southeast, 81 miles northeast of Miyako Island. The two PLAN ships then sailed southeast through the Miyako Strait to enter the Pacific Ocean while monitored by minesweeper JS Miyajima (MSC-690) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa.

The two ships were sighted on Thursday sailing northwest, 62 miles south of Yonaguni Island at 4 a.m. local time and then sailed north between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan, according to a JSO release. The ships were then sighted sailing north in the East China Sea, 43 miles west of Uotsuri Island, which is part of the disputed Senkaku Islands group that is Japan administers and bot China and Taiwan claim. Destroyer JS Sawagiri (DD-157) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 5 shadowed the PLAN ships.

PLAN ships routinely make circuit voyages around Japan’s southwestern islands. While the voyages through international waters are legal, Japan voiced concerned about the increased activity over the years, has boosted its military presence in the area and plans to reinforce garrisons there with improved anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile capabilities.

Meanwhile, the JMSDF will embark on its annual Overseas Training Cruise on Thursday. This year’s cruise includes training ship JS Kashima (TV-3508) and destroyer JS Hatakaze (DDG-171/TV-3520) embarking on a 149-day cruise to the Americas that will end on Oct. 20, according to a JMSDF release.

The fleet will call in on The United States (Dutch Harbor, San Diego and Pearl Harbor), Canada (Victoria), Mexico (Manzanillo), Peru (Callao), Chile (Valparaiso), Argentina (Buenos Aires), Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and Recife) and Colombia (Cartagena).

Destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117), with an embarked SH-60K Seahawk helicopter, will sail to the Hawaiian Islands to conduct missile firing training, the JMSDF announced on Friday. The deployment period is from June 2 through July 13. Suzutsuki is armed with the Type 90 surface-to-surface missile and the RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) surface-to-air missile. The release did not say whether the destroyer will fire either or both of the missiles during the training event.

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