Japan will join a major U.S.-Australian military exercise for the first time in a sign of growing security links between the three countries as tensions fester over China’s island building in the South China Sea.
While only 40 Japanese officers and soldiers will take part in drills involving 30,000 U.S. and Australian troops in early July, experts said the move showed how Washington wanted to foster cooperation among its security allies in Asia.
The Talisman Sabre biennial exercises, to be held in locations around Australia, will encompass maritime operations, amphibious landings, special forces tactics and urban warfare.
“I think the U.S. is trying to get its allies to do more,” said Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.
“There is an obvious symmetry between Japan as the upper anchor of the Western Pacific alliance and … Australia as the southern anchor.”
All three nations have said they were concerned about freedom of movement through the seas and air in the disputed South China Sea, where China is creating seven artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, a vital shipping corridor.