America’s 7th Fleet, who are headquartered in Japan and responsible for operations in East Asia, announced on Monday they would be running their annual computer-based drill. The Resilient Shield 2021 exercises will run from today to February 26 at more than 77 American and Japanese command centres.
In a statement, the 7th Fleet said the annual computer-based drills will test joint tactics to face regional threats, including China and North Korea, and to ensure the US and Japanese forces are “well-rehearsed”.
Captain Leslie Sobol, director of the fleet’s Task Force Integrated Air and Missile Defence, also touted the exercises as a way to strengthen ties with Japan.
He said: “Resilient Shield serves to enhance cooperation and further integrate the unmatched missile defence capabilities of Japan and the United States.
“This exercise will hone our tactical and operational skill to defeat the most stressing missile defence contingencies.”
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The US and Japan have carried out a series of naval drills with each other in the South China Sea over the last year.
President Joe Biden has previously vowed to strengthen America’s ties with Japan to counter China, promising “extended deterrence”.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said after a phone call with Mr Biden: “We managed to have substantial exchanges. We agreed to strengthen our alliance firmly by having more phone calls like this.”
Mr Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, also told the Philippine foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, that the US rejected China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea beyond what is permitted under international law.
He said Washington stood with the Philippines and other south-east Asian countries resisting pressure from Beijing, which has laid claim to wide areas of the South China Sea.
It follows as Wang Yi, Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, insisted Washington and Beijing can work together on issues if they repair their relations.
He insisted Beijing is ready to reopen constructive dialogue after ties sank to their lowest in decades, but he urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs, and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.
He also called on the US to remove tariffs on Chinese goods, and abandon an “irrational suppression” of the Chinese tech sector.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price responded to reporters: “His comments reflect a continued pattern of Beijing’s tendency to avert blame for its predatory economic practices, its lack of transparency, its failure to honour its international agreements, and its repression of universal human rights.”
Mr Biden heavily criticised China in the lead up to the US election and while in office over alleged human rights abuses.
In the first phone call the President and Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping had since January 20, Mr Biden warned his counterpart of Washingtpon’s commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
A White House read out said: “President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.
“The two leaders also exchanged views on countering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change, and preventing weapons proliferation. President Biden committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies.”