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Japan’s Self-Defence Forces conducted 56 multinational drills in 2023

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH 182) alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Oct. 3, 2021. (Erin C. Zorich/U.S. Navy )
March 10, 2024

The Self-Defense Forces took part in multinational joint exercises 56 times last year, 18 times the figure in 2006 when the current operational system was introduced, according to an analysis by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Tactics and battle drills, which are conducted on the supposition of emergencies, also accounted for a greater proportion of the drills — more than 60%.

It was clear from the Yomiuri’s analysis that the SDF is heightening its deterrence capabilities in coordination with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region as China builds up its military strength and North Korea continues launching missiles.

In 2006, the SDF founded the Joint Staff Office to comprehensively manage the Ground, Maritime and Air self-defense forces. The Yomiuri Shimbun examined data on drills and exercises disclosed by the SDF since 2006.

There were three multinational drills in 2006, and the figure remained between two and 10 for some years afterward.

However, there were more than 20 drills in 2013, when regional tensions mounted after a Chinese navy vessel directed fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer. The number rose to 30 in 2017, the year after China sent an aircraft carrier into the Pacific for the first time, before rising to 56 last year.

Drills declined in 2018, when regional tensions temporarily eased following a summit meeting between U.S. and North Korean leaders, and in 2020, when drills were restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2010s saw the beginning of an increase in drills that include “tactics and battle,” which require high levels of coordination. In 2023, these exercises accounted for 64% of the total.

Of the 56 drills in 2023, about 60% were conducted at sea. There were 12 drills to detect submarines, which require high proficiency and showing the trend to focus on securing the safety of sea lanes. Seaborne drills were conducted 18 times in waters around Japan, such as the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, 10 times in Southeast Asia, and four times in the South China Sea.

In 1996, Japan and the United States signed an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) for the reciprocal provision of supplies and services to smoothly conduct bilateral training and exercises. Since 2010, Japan has concluded ACSAs with Australia, Britain, Canada, France, India and Germany.

The United States took part in 50 out of 56 multinational drills in 2023, followed by Australia at 23 and South Korea at 16. Both countries are U.S. allies.

Yasuhiro Kawakami, a former rear admiral and director of the Security Studies Program at Sasakawa Peace Foundation believes there will be more drills in the future.

“As countries that emphasize common values such as realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific jointly participate in multilateral drills, they serve as occasions to send a strong message to China and other countries,” Kawakami said. “As U.S. military strength comparatively weakens, the number of such drills will increase.”


(c) 2024 the Asia News Network

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