Tokyo announced on Friday that it will hold a joint military drill with the US and France from May 11th to the 17th in southwest Japan as tensions with China are on the rise.
The drill will mark the first large-scale land and sea military exercises between the three countries and come as the US’s European allies are looking to boost cooperation in the region to counter Beijing. Last December, the three countries held smaller-scale naval exercises in the Philippine Sea.
Earlier this month, France led naval drills in the Bay of Bengal and with the four Quad countries; the US, Japan, India, and Australia. The Quad is an informal alliance group that is seen as a possible foundation for a NATO-style anti-China military alliance.
France has followed the US and is expanding its presence in the region and staging its own military provocations. In February, a French submarine and another warship steamed through the South China Sea.
“France shares the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. “By strengthening cooperation between Japan, the United States, and France, we’d like to further improve the tactics and skills of the Self-Defense Forces in defending remote island territories.”
The “remote island territories” Kishi is referencing are likely the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Senkakus, or Diayous as they are known in China, are uninhabited islands that are currently administered by Japan and are also claimed by China and Taiwan.
The dispute over the Senkakus has led the US to reaffirm that the islands are covered under Article V of the US-Japan Security Treaty. Meaning, the US is prepared to go to war over the uninhabited islands.