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Indo-Pacific

Japan, US, France joint military drills set for Kyushu in May

SDF strengthens ties with European peers to counter China's rise

Ground Self Defense Force troops train in Kyushu in 2018: Japan's Self Defense Forces aim to bolster their ability to defend remote islands, such as the Senkaku Islands.

TOKYO -- Japan's defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, announced at a news conference on Friday that Japan, the U.S. and France will conduct joint military drills on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu in May.

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops, U.S. Marines, and French Army troops will participate. The drills aim to bolster their ability to conduct joint operations to defend remote islands. With China's increasingly frequent maritime forays in the East China Sea in mind, particularly around the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, Japan hopes to improve its ability to work with allies in defense.

The drills will be held from May 11 to 17 at Camp Ainoura, in Nagasaki Prefecture, where the GSDF's Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, a unit specializing in the defense of remote islands, is stationed. Exercises will also be held at the Kirishima Training Ground, in Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures, and in the sea and airspace west of Kyushu. According to the GSDF, this will be the first time for Japanese, U.S. and French troops to conduct joint field exercises in Japan.

France, which has territories in the Pacific Ocean, has been increasing its training in the Indo-Pacific this year, strengthening its cooperation with Japan and the U.S. This month, India took part for the first time in "La Perouse," a French-led joint maritime exercise with the Maritime Self-Defense Force, the U.S., and Australia in the Bay of Bengal.

"France is a comrade in our Indo-Pacific vision. We want to improve our tactical skills in island defense," Kishi stressed at the news conference.

The SDF has been strengthening its ties with European nations. The British Royal Navy will dispatch the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to Asia later this spring. And Germany is sending a frigate to Asia. It is also coordinating exercises to take advantage of port calls.

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