U.S., Japan and Australia to hold joint drills as tensions rise in South China Sea

The U.S., Japan and Australia will hold joint naval drills on Wednesday, as tensions continue to mount in the South China Sea following Russian and Chinese military activity in the region. 

News of the joint naval drills, reported by Reuters citing Japan’s Kyodo news agency, comes as President Biden is set to welcome South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Camp David on Friday, where they are expected to discuss increasing tensions in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Russian, Chinese navy ships jointly patrol Pacific - Russia's defense ministry
Video released by Russian state news agency TASS purports to show large vessels sailing in a diamond formation as crew members stood to attention on deck in the South China Sea. Russian and Chinese navy ships have been jointly patrolling the Pacific Ocean and holding naval exercises in the East China Sea, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement on Friday (August 18).


Meanwhile, Japan’s defense ministry said on Friday that it had scrambled fighter jets in response to two Russian spy planes that it had identified flying back and forth between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, according to Reuters.  

This latest Russian activity near Japanese and South Korean waters comes just a day after Tokyo said it spotted Russian and Chinese naval ships crossing waters between the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako.

The news also comes as Russia’s defense ministry confirmed on Friday that Russian and Chinese warships are conducting joint maritime patrols in the Pacific Ocean that Moscow claims involve rescue training and drills for countering air strikes. 

Video released by Russian state news agency TASS showed nine large vessels sailing in a diamond formation as crew members stood at attention on deck.

The drills also included practicing the “replenishment of fuel reserves by ships and the transfer of cargo on the go,” the defense ministry said on social media platform Telegram, adding that the joint detachment of ships had covered more than 6,400 nautical miles since the start of the exercises.

“A detachment of ships of the Russian Navy and the PLA Navy is currently operating in the waters of the East China Sea,” said the ministry, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

“During this period, the sailors of the two countries conducted anti-submarine exercises, repulsed an air strike by a mock enemy, conducted rescue training at sea, and perfected the skills of taking off and landing helicopters on the decks of warships,” the statement read.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping make a toast during a reception following talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, in a March 21, 2023 file photo.


Ties between Moscow and Beijing have grown closer in recent years, as prolonged fighting in Ukraine has shattered Russia’s relationship with Western governments.

A Chinese defense ministry spokesperson said Monday that naval fleets of the two countries were conducting maritime patrols in western and northern regions of the Pacific Ocean.

“These actions are not aimed at a third party and are not related to the current international and regional situation,” the spokesperson added.

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu visited Russia this week to attend the 11th Moscow Conference on International Security, where he called for closer military cooperation.

Moscow and Beijing have ramped up bilateral defense collaboration in recent months, carrying out a joint air patrol over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea in July.

The displays of force have caused concerns in the region — the July air patrol led to South Korea deploying fighter jets as a precaution.

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