Japan hosts multinational drills to intercept weapons at sea

Japan hosts multinational drills to intercept weapons at sea

The Associated Press

Japanese Navy Sailors in a speedboat raced to a simulated, suspicious boat while aircraft watched from the sky in a multinational exercise in late July 2018 off Tokyo’s southern coast to practice intercepting weapons of mass destruction at sea.

Destroyers and surveillance aircraft, as well as coast guard ships from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States, participated in the exercise, part of the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Journalists observed from the Japanese destroyer Murasame.

A Pacific Shield 18 exercise off the coast of the Boso Peninsula, southeast of Tokyo, simulated the halting of ships suspected of carrying materials related to weapons of mass destruction to conduct inventory checks.

Personnel from Japan, the U.S. and South Korea took turns approaching the target ship and communicating with its crew.

Separately, Japan, the U.S. and Australia collaborated in a joint drill to detect and chase target vessels. (Pictured: A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Maritime Interception Team uses a rigid-hulled inflatable boat during a mock inspection of a suspicious ship during the Proliferation Security Initiative Pacific Shield 18 in Tokyo in late July 2018.)

Thirty countries participated in the overall exercise, along with 20 observers and four nonmembers, mainly from the Indo-Pacific region and Europe.

Also during the drills, Japanese police, customs and Coast Guard officials, and Army troops focused on inspecting and decontaminating containers that could carry chemical weapons. The U.S., Thailand and the Philippines conducted a similar exercise.

The initiative started in 2003 as part of Washington’s efforts to block shipments of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the materials and equipment needed to make them, as well as missiles that can be used to deliver them.

Japan has actively monitored offshore ship-to-ship transfers of oil allegedly involving North Korean ships, a potential violation of U.N. sanctions imposed over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

The initiative does not target any specific country, but North Korea has criticized it, calling it a provocation.