The military drills, lasting from May 11 to 17, will be the first large-scale exercise in Japan with land troops from all three countries.
Japan’s defense minister announced Japan will hold a joint exercise with US and French troops in the southwestern part of the country next month.
The exercise, which runs from May 11-17, will be the first large-scale exercise in Japan to include ground troops from all three countries, the Face Guard. Japan Land (JGSDF) said in a statement on Friday.
It comes as Tokyo seeks to strengthen defense cooperation beyond its key ally the US to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the South and South China Seas.
“France shares its vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters.
“By strengthening cooperation between Japan, the United States and France, we want to further improve the Self-Defense Force’s tactics and skills in protecting remote island territories,” he said.
Paris has strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific, which has territories, including the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and French Polynesia in the South Pacific.
Joint drills will be held at the Kirishima training area of the JGSDF and Camp Ainoura in the Kyushu region and include amphibious operations exercises.
Threats from China
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden pledged to stand up together against China and step up cooperation including technology.
Both leaders also agreed to oppose any attempt to “change the status quo by force or force in the East and South China Seas”.
Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader was also aimed at spurring joint efforts between the US, Japan, Australia and India, an informal alliance known as the “Quartet”, which the new US administration sees as a bulwark against China. in the Indo-Pacific.
The United States has accused China of “destabilizing” the region by building artificial islands, as well as naval and air facilities in the South China Sea.
Japan has long said it feels threatened by China’s vast military resources and territorial disputes.
Joe Biden met the Prime Minister of Japan during his first live summit with a foreign leader. This is why it’s important 👇 https://t.co/MxSgpASJn8
– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) April 16, 2021
It is of particular interest to Chinese activity after the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyu.
In recent months, Washington has reiterated that the US-Japan Security Treaty includes disputed islands.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, citing the so-called “nine dash line” to justify what it has said are historic rights to vital commercial waterways.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all contend over the territory that China claims at sea.
An international court in The Hague in 2016 invalidated China’s claims in the South China Sea in a first ruling, also arguing that China’s reclamation activities in the Spratly Islands were unjust legal. Beijing rejected this decision.