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International relations

Japan and US to conduct joint drills for Senkaku defense

Large-scale exercises planned in light of repeated Chinese incursions

Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force conducts training with the U.S. military in Okinawa. The countries are holding talks for additional joint drills.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- The U.S. and Japanese governments have begun talks on conducting large-scale joint drills to increase their capability to protect the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Nikkei has learned.

Under the plan, Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces would join the U.S. Marines and Air Force in an exercise to defend the Japanese-administered Senkakus, which are claimed by China as Diaoyu.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi stressed the need for joint drills during a Fuji TV program aired Friday.

"We need to improve our capability through joint drills and demonstrate our presence," he said.

China adopted a law in February allowing its coast guard to fire at foreign ships. Since then, Chinese coast guard ships have repeatedly sailed into Japanese waters near the islets. Tokyo is concerned that China will step up efforts to change the status quo in the East China Sea.

The drills come after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met Japanese counterparts Toshimitsu Motegi and Kishi in "two-plus-two" talks in Tokyo on Tuesday and confirmed plans to conduct exercises in the area.

After the talks, Blinken denounced China's maritime expansion near the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan, saying that China is "acting, both more repressively, at home, and more aggressively abroad."

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