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US, Japan, India to Hold Naval Drills in Western Pacific
International

US, Japan, India to Hold Naval Drills in Western Pacific

A fleet of US, Japanese and Indian warships will hold a large-scale joint naval exercise over eight days from Friday in the Western Pacific, close to a Japanese island chain, part of which China claims.

As China pushes its territorial claims in the neighboring South China Sea, Tokyo and Washington worry it will look to extend its influence into the Western Pacific, with a growing fleet of submarines and surface vessels to ply distant oceans.

The drill, dubbed Malabar, is an annual event between the US and India, and Japan is joining it this year for the first time since 2007, Japan’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement, Reuters reported. Among the Japanese warships, which will practice submarine hunting and anti-aircraft defense, will be the Hyuga, one of the country’s three new helicopter carriers. Last year, the drill was held in the Bay of Bengal near India.

Japan’s southwestern island chain, which hosts the biggest concentration of US military personnel in Asia, blocks China’s east coast access to the Western Pacific. Japan’s military is reinforcing the islands with radar stations and anti-ship missile batteries.

Lying around 220 km west of Taiwan are a group of uninhabited isles, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, which are controlled by Tokyo and claimed by Beijing.

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