The United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia have kicked off “first-of-its-kind” naval drills near Guam, the U.S. Navy said Thursday, May 23.
The “Pacific Vanguard” exercise brings together more than 3,000 sailors from the four countries to “sharpen skills and strengthen practical cooperation at sea,” the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement.
The drills will focus on “live fire exercises, defensive counter-air operations, anti-submarine warfare, and replenishment at sea,” added the statement.
The Royal Australian Navy contributed two frigates to the exercise, HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Parramatta. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force sent destroyers JS Ariake and JS Asahi, and South Korea the Republic of Korea Navy destroyer ROKS Wang Geon.
The USS Blue Ridge, the Seventh Fleet’s flagship, will lead the operation from the U.S. side. Also representing the U.S. are guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur, fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock, and dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd. Aircraft from the “Scorpions” of Electronic Attack Squadron and the “Mad Foxes” of Patrol Squadron will also participate.
“Pacific Vanguard joins forces from four, like-minded maritime nations that provide security throughout the Indo-Pacific based on shared values and common interests,” said U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer.
“This exercise advances the integration of our forces, and enables an effective collaborative response to a range of events that might occur in the region.”
With trade tensions growing between Washington and Beijing, China earlier this week denounced a U.S. warship sail-by near disputed islands in the South China Sea.
And Guam, home to more than 160,000 people, was at the center of nuclear tensions between Washington and Pyongyang in 2017, with North Korea threatening to hit the U.S. territory with “enveloping fire.”
The U.S. has previously cancelled some military exercises with South Korea amid negations with Pyongyang.
With reporting from AFP