Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo
Japan is busy welcoming visits and joint exercises with major maritime nations.
Throughout May, Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF), French Armed Forces, Australian Australian Defence Force (ADF), and the US military conducted a multilateral exercise ARC 21 in southwestern Japan and the East China Sea.
French Navy’s amphibious task group took part in joint exercises with the U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) in the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea to enhance the level of tactical interoperability.
Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) hosted an urban warfare and amphibious operation exercises aimed at defending a remote island from enemy invasion with French and the US forces. The US and Japan are regularly training together but this is the first time for the French forces to be involved, showing the unity of the US allies.
On May 22, Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth embarked on the maiden operational voyage to Asia. It leads a flotilla with Dutch and US navies and travels through major geostrategic choke points of the Middle East and the Indian Ocean: a stop at Gibraltar; a small detachment’s visit to the Black Sea through Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits; brief strike mission against Daesh in the East Mediterranean Sea; navigation through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and Mab el Mandeb Strait; a visit at the port of Duqm in Oman which is increasingly recognized for its strategic location for global maritime powers.
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s flotilla conducts joint exercises with Indian Navy and make a stopover in Singapore. Then it takes part in Freedom of Navigation exercises in the South China Sea, including the Exercise Bersama Lima 21 with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The flotilla’s tour culminates in visits to Japan and joint exercises with Japan and the US in September.
Eyes are on the security of Taiwan as well as the remote islands in East China Sea and South China Sea.
These joint efforts are aimed at reminding China of concerns of a wider coalition of nations.
The global balance of power will be tilted toward the expanding China whose economic and military posture will surpass, in time, those of the US in the Asia-Pacific, but if the US allies and partners get together and faced with China, the powers of both camps match up. Japan is the pivotal country in coordinating this delicate balance of power between the US allies in aggregate, and China which revealing its bulling habit to nations deemed lesser.