Last week, a US Navy guided-missile destroyer held anti-submarine warfare drills with a French submarine and a Japanese carrier in the Philippine Sea. The drill was a rare joint exercise with France in the Pacific and is a sign of things to come as both the US and its European allies are looking to counter China in the region.
“Although one of the US’s long-standing allies, it is a rare opportunity for US Navy maritime forces to conduct operations with their French Navy counterparts in the Seventh Fleet area of operations,” The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said in a statement. The fleet is based out of Japan and operates across the Indo-Pacific region.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the US, Japan, and France will hold their first joint land and sea military exercises in May 2021. In comments to Japan’s Sankei newspaper, a French naval leader made it clear that the future exercises are aimed at Beijing.
“We want to demonstrate our presence to the region and send a message about Japan-France cooperation,” French Admiral Pierre Vandier said. “This is a message aimed at China. This is a message about multi-lateral partnerships and the freedom of passage.”
Japan is looking to build stronger partnerships with European nations to counter Beijing. Last week, Japan’s defense minister called on Germany to send a warship to the region. Germany is planning to send a navy ship to the region next year to join Australia for military exercises.
Japan is also boosting cooperation with Australia. In November, Japan and Australia signed a preliminary agreement for a defense pact that would pave the way for an Australian military presence in Japan. If Tokyo’s parliament approves the pact, it will mark the first time in 60 years that Japan allows another foreign military besides the US on its soil.
The US, Japan, Australia, and India form the informal alliance known as the Quad, which some US officials believe should be the basis for a NATO-style alliance in Asia. In November, the four countries held military exercises together for the first time in over a decade.