The Japanese and US coastguards have held rare joint exercises over the weekend near the Ogawasawa Islands, some 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo, the Japanese coastguard said on Monday.
The exercises, which involved the Japanese Coast Guard’s 6,500-ton patrol vessel Akitsushima and the U.S. Coast Guard’s 4,500-ton Kimball cutter, took place between the islands of Chichijima and Hahajima and lasted nearly four hours on Sunday.
The exercises took place as the Chinese Coast Guard continues to send ships near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by China, where they are known as Diaoyu.
The Japanese Coast Guard said cooperation between the two sides is gaining in importance as they seek to achieve a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”
“The Japanese Coast Guard, along with the US Coast Guard, should play a leading role in strengthening cooperation between maritime security agencies around the world,” the JCG said in a statement.
He announced last month the planned deployment of the 180-ton patrol vessel Mikazuki to the islets of Ogasawara, the first such expedition to the islands.
Sunday’s drills were also seen as another way to push back China’s growing maritime assertion, including a new law passed earlier this month that allows its Coast Guard to use military force in waters claimed by the country, including around the Senkaku.
The new law authorizes the Chinese Coast Guard to take “all necessary measures,” including the use of weapons, against foreign organizations or individuals who violate Chinese sovereignty or jurisdiction.
China has increased the number of operations its coast guard conducts around the Senkakus in a bid to exhaust the Japanese coast guard and test Tokyo’s courage on the matter. This culminated last year, when Japan spotted Chinese government ships inside contiguous and territorial waters near uninhabited islets, a record 333 days.
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