U.S., Japan, South Korea, Australia hold first naval drills in Western Pacific

U.S., Japan, South Korea, Australia hold first naval drills in Western Pacific


U.S. Navy ships conducted joint drills with warships from allies Japan, Australia and South Korea in their first combined exercise in the Western Pacific in late May 2019, according to the U.S. Navy.

The Pacific Vanguard (PACVAN) exercise near the U.S. island of Guam took place ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan, as Washington looks to allies in the Indo-Pacific to help counter China’s military might in the region.

“Pacific Vanguard joins forces from four, like-minded maritime nations that provide security throughout the Indo-Pacific based on shared values and common interests,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.

The six-day exercise involved two Japanese destroyers, two Australian frigates and a destroyer from South Korea, with as many as 3,000 Sailors participating. (Pictured: Ships and aircraft from Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, and U.S. naval forces transit in formation as part of the Pacific Vanguard exercise.)

PACVAN is the first exercise of its kind   involving the four countries. Focused on improving the capabilities of participating countries to respond together to crises and contingencies in the region, PACVAN prepares the participating maritime forces to operate as an integrated, capable and potent allied force ready to respond to a complex maritime environment in the Indo-Pacific region.

The U.S. Navy has deployed five ships as well as fighter jets and maritime patrol planes for the drills, which include live fire and anti-submarine warfare exercises.

PACVAN is the latest show of combined naval force in the Indo-Pacific region.

Also in May, U.S. ships conducted drills with French, Japanese and Australian ships in the Bay of Bengal and held separate exercises with a Japanese helicopter carrier and warships from India and the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea, through which passes about a third of global seaborne trade. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims to the waterway.

The U.S. Navy also sent two ships in late May through the Taiwan Strait, its latest transit through the sensitive waterway.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include an emerging trade war and the People’s Republic of China’s increasingly aggressive military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.