US, Japan and South Korea Hold Drills in Disputed Sea as Biden Hosts Leaders of Japan, Philippines

This handout photo taken on April 11, 2024 and provided by the South Korean Defence Ministry shows the US Navy's USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier (C), South Korean Navy's destroyer ROKS Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (bottom) and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ariake (top) sailing in formation during a joint maritime drill in international waters south of the southern Jeju island. (Photo by Handout / South Korean Defense Ministry / AFP)
This handout photo taken on April 11, 2024 and provided by the South Korean Defence Ministry shows the US Navy's USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier (C), South Korean Navy's destroyer ROKS Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (bottom) and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ariake (top) sailing in formation during a joint maritime drill in international waters south of the southern Jeju island. (Photo by Handout / South Korean Defense Ministry / AFP)
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US, Japan and South Korea Hold Drills in Disputed Sea as Biden Hosts Leaders of Japan, Philippines

This handout photo taken on April 11, 2024 and provided by the South Korean Defence Ministry shows the US Navy's USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier (C), South Korean Navy's destroyer ROKS Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (bottom) and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ariake (top) sailing in formation during a joint maritime drill in international waters south of the southern Jeju island. (Photo by Handout / South Korean Defense Ministry / AFP)
This handout photo taken on April 11, 2024 and provided by the South Korean Defence Ministry shows the US Navy's USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier (C), South Korean Navy's destroyer ROKS Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (bottom) and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ariake (top) sailing in formation during a joint maritime drill in international waters south of the southern Jeju island. (Photo by Handout / South Korean Defense Ministry / AFP)

A US carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has held a three-day joint exercise with its allies Japan and South Korea as US President Joe Biden met for talks with leaders from Japan and the Philippines at the White House. The dueling military and diplomatic maneuvers are meant to strengthen the partners' solidarity in the face of China’s aggressive military actions in the region.

A number of US and South Korean guided missile destroyers and a Japanese warship joined the April 10-12 drill in the disputed East China Sea, where worries about China territorial claims are rising. The Associated Press was one of several news organizations allowed a front-row look at the drills.

Rear Adm. Christopher Alexander, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, said the three nations conducted undersea warfare exercises, maritime interdiction operations, search and rescue drills and work focused on communication and data sharing. He told journalists Thursday on the Roosevelt that these drills would help improve communication among the United States and its allies and "better prepare us for a crisis in the region."

F/A-18E Super Hornet combat jets took off from the carrier’s flight deck, which also had anti-submarine MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. Journalists were flown more than an hour from Kadena Air Base, the hub of US Pacific air power. Kadena is on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, which is home to about half of the 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan.

"It is a busy time; there is a lot going on in the world," Alexander said. "The significance of this exercise is we have three like-minded countries, three like-minded navies that believe in peace, security and stability in the western Pacific."

The participation of Japan and South Korea was another sign of improving ties between the sometimes wary neighbors. The two US allies' relationship has often been strained by the memory of Japan's half-century colonization of the Korean Peninsula. Washington has been pressing them to cooperate so the three partners can better deal with threats from China and North Korea.

This week's huge parliamentary election defeat of the governing party of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has sought better relations with Japan, could constrain his Japan-friendly efforts, but experts believe ties will remain stable.

The latest naval exercise is part of Biden's work to deepen security and diplomatic engagement with Indo-Pacific nations. Biden invited Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos to the White House for their first trilateral talks Thursday, and has declared that the US defense commitment to the Pacific allies is "ironclad."

Tensions between China and the Philippines have risen over repeated clashes by the two nations’ coast guard vessels in the disputed South China Sea. Chinese coast guard ships also regularly approach disputed Japanese-controlled East China Sea islands near Taiwan.

Beijing has defended its operations in the South China Sea and blamed the United States for creating tensions. China's President Xi Jinping had a series of talks this week with senior officials from Vietnam, Russia and Taiwan.

The US-Japan-South Korea naval exercises follow four-way drills held in the South China Sea, where Japan joined the United States, Australia and the Philippines. Participants carefully avoided mentioning China and said they were holding the exercises to safeguard a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific.

An area of long-simmering disputes, the South China Sea serves a key sea lane for global trade. Concerned governments include Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Taiwan.



Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
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Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)

China's military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react quickly, Taiwan's top security official said on Wednesday.
China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as "punishment" for new President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were "not subordinate to each other", which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries, Reuters said.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China's drills was not to go to war.
"The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," he said.
The drills were meant to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing "has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait", Tsai added.
Speaking in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated its list of complaints about Lai being a dangerous supporter of Taiwan's formal independence, and threatened continued Chinese military activity.
The drills were a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity", she said.
"As Taiwan's provocations for independence continue, the People's Liberation Army's actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity continue."
The government in Taipei says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China. The Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists who set up the People's Republic of China.
China says any decisions on Taiwan's future are for all of China's 1.4 billion people to make, not only Taiwan's 23 million, and has offered a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" autonomy model, though that has almost no public support on the island, according to opinion polls.
"Different systems are not an obstacle to reunification, let alone an excuse for separation," Zhu said.
China has never explained how it would integrate Taiwan's vibrant democracy and direct election of its leaders into any plan to govern the island.
China has in the past four years sent its military to areas around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.
But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai's bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.
"The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait's status quo," it said.
Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilized almost as soon as China announced the drills early on Thursday.
"The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilization capabilities," he said.