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US, Japan hold joint fighter jet drills after China, Russia fly bombers near Biden

Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-15s and U.S. Air Force F-16s fly in a joint aerial drill over the Sea of Japan, May 25, 2022. (U.S. Indo-Pacific Command photo/Released)
May 26, 2022

U.S. and Japanese forces conducted joint aerial drills over the Sea of Japan on Wednesday — just one day after China and Russia flew nuclear-capable strategic bombers together in a joint patrol near South Korea and Japan while President Joe Biden visited.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) both announced on Wednesday that they deployed fighter jets for joint air defense exercises.

“To showcase combined capabilities to deter and counter regional threats, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command aircraft conducted a bilateral exercise with Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force 25 May, 2022 in the Sea of Japan,” INDOPACOM said. “This exercise was conducted to demonstrate our nation’s rapid reaction capabilities, high levels of force readiness, close coordination, bilateral interoperability, and credible deterrent capacity.”

The JASDF said Japan deployed four F-15 Eagle fighter jets, while the U.S. deployed four F-16 Falcon fighter jets for the joint drills over the Sea of Japan.

The JASDF said the joint flight demonstrated the ability of the two nations to “cooperate closely in peacetime and maintain high levels of operational readiness to respond to any situation to defend our nation and contribute to peace and stability.”

“Through exercises like this, [Japan Self-Defense Forces] continues to maintain and reinforce readiness and the ability to contribute to peace and stability in this region,” the Japanese military said.

On Tuesday, nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 and Chinese H-6K bombers flew around the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan. Both country’s bombers were also escorted by Russian Su-30SM fighter jets. During the flight, the bomber patrol entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), prompting South Korea to deploy fighter jets in response.

Japan also deployed fighter jets in response to the joint Chinese-Russian bomber patrol, which flew near Japan as Biden met with his Japanese, Indian and Australian counterparts for a summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or “Quad” in Tokyo.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan raised its “grave concerns” with China and Russia over the joint bomber patrol on Tuesday. While China and Russia have held joint air patrols before, Kishi said, “We believe the fact that this action was taken during the Quad summit makes it more provocative than in the past.”

North Korea also conducted three short-range ballistic missile tests in the days before Biden traveled to South Korea. Biden visited South Korea as part of his tour of Asia before arriving in Japan on Sunday ahead of the quad summit.