During joint exercises by American and Japanese naval vessels in the Philippine Sea, fighter jets roared off the aircraft carrier’s flat top into the night, their afterburners glowing. The exercise was a show of force in a patch of ocean where Chinese provocations have increased, including a collision last month between Philippine fishing boats and a Chinese coast guard ship.
Naval officers aboard the ships said the exercises were meant to maintain freedom of the seas and improve cooperation between their navies, not to send a warning signal to China or North Korea. Rear Admiral Kazushi Yokota of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force said the exercises were conducted for maintaining the free and operating Indo Pacific Ocean and improving interoperability. China criticizes joint drills, claiming they exacerbate regional instability and are not in the interest of regional countries, according to state-run Global Times.
Rear Admiral Patrick Hannafin assured the U.S. Navy that they would be ready to respond to any global crisis, regardless of the situation. The U.S. 7th Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, spend two days aboard ships involved in the exercises earlier this month. The journalists got a bird’s-eye view of the two U.S. aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Carl Vinson, churning through the water. Japan’s Hyuga, a light carrier equipped with helicopters, an Aegis destroyer, and a cruiser escort, was also present.
The United States has 11 aircraft carriers, but deploying two to the same exercise is unusual. Harry Harris, the former ambassador to South Korea and retired admiral, said the exercises should dispel the notion that crises in different parts of the world leave the U.S. overextended.
The US has conducted naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific region, demonstrating its resolve and capability to defend national interests and allies. The exercises, which took advantage of two carriers, have been criticized for being overextended in the Middle East and Europe. Former commander of the US Forces in Korea, Gen. Vincent Brooks, emphasized the importance of alliances in the region.
The exercises aim to reassure American allies and dissuade potential adversaries simultaneously. Patrick Cronin, chair for Asia-Pacific Security at the Hudson Institute, said that the Chinese PLA forces conduct peacetime confrontation operations to make the US, Japan, and the Philippines feel anxious and uncomfortable.