USN, UK, Japanese Aircraft Carriers Exercise in West Pacific, South China Sea Next

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Royal Navy Twitter

The United Kingdom continues to strengthen bonds with allies in the Pacific, its new strike group joining forces with other aircraft carriers from the United States and Japan on exercise in a rare example of “quad carrier operations” on China’s doorstep.

Ships from the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, the United States Navy, the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal New Zealand Navy, and the Royal Netherlands Navy exercised in the Philippine sea, a gathering of ships reckoned to amount to half a million tons of ships.

The meeting included two U.S. aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson, the Japanese carrier JS Ise, and new UK carrier HMS Queen Elizbeth, which is now halfway through its Pacific deployment. In addition to the capital ships, there was also over a dozen destroyers and support ships from the six participating nations present.

 

While the participating nations are generally circumspect about who the intended audience for such shows of force may be — China — the various deployments and navigations seen in greater numbers this year than most have come under the banner ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ by the participants.

China is less coy, and as an analysis by established Japanese newspaper the Kyodo News reports, Beijing’s massive air activity over Taiwan at the weekend is a calculated response to the presence of Western nation’s carrier battlegroups exercising in the Philippine Sea.  The British carrier group will soon be sailing through the South China Sea, the British government said Tuesday.

China claims the whole of Taiwan as its own territory and generally makes no bones about its willingness to take the island by force. The United States, for its part, has reaffirmed its dedication to an independent Taiwan, but nevertheless, the Taiwanese President felt moved to warn that her nation being captured by China would be “catastrophic” for democracy worldwide.

Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States are at the centre of rapidly hardening alliances universally interpreted as bulwark building against expansionist China. The UK and Japan have announced the beginning of military talks to increase cooperation and interoperability between their forces — essential for allies fighting together in future wars — and the United States has just launched and recovered fighter jets from a Japanese carrier.

The flights are the first time fixed-wing aviation has operated from a Japanese ship since the end of the Second World War, and represents a major step-change for Japanese military capacity. The nation plans to buy 42 F35Bs to operate from two of its carriers.

The United States and the United Kingdom are also entering into other alliances. Although not represented in the exercises this week, Australia has just entered into a major submarine pact with the two powers, and will become a nuclear submarine operator for the first time, adding to the balance of pro-democracy power in the Pacific.

While China was predictably angry about the development, also upset was France, which missed out on a multi-billion deal to build conventional submarines for Australia when the Anglosphere nation decided to buy Anglo-American instead.

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