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Deployment highlights Japan’s commitment to Indo-Pacific, allies

Felix Kim

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) Indo-Pacific Deployment 2021 (IPD21) underscores its commitment to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and highlights Japan’s cooperation with other navies in the region, the United States and Europe, according to officials.

IPD21 also shows Tokyo’s dedication to the well-being and security of the Pacific islands region by making port visits at New Caledonia and Palau, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said.

“Through this IPD, the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces will not only improve the tactical skills of the Maritime Self-Defense Force and strengthen cooperation with the navies of each country, but also share basic values and strategic benefits such as democracy and the rule of law,” Kishi told reporters as the 11-week deployment got underway in late August 2021.

The 250-meter, 18,000-metric ton Izumo-class aircraft carrier JS Kaga is leading the deployment, accompanied by the destroyers JS Shiranui and JS Murasame, according to Japan’s Ministry of Defense. Four JMSDF helicopters, a submarine and a Kawasaki P-1 patrol aircraft are also participating.

The JS Kaga and the two destroyers joined two Palauan patrol vessels for a one-day exercise September 1, according to the Defense Ministry. Joint drills included tactical maneuvering, communications and search and rescue.

“Japan and Palau are close partners who share common values such as democracy, rule of law and free and open maritime access, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will continue to deepen mutual cooperation and contribute to the realization of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” said JMSDF Rear Adm. Izuru Ikeuchi, pictured right, who visited Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr., left, following the exercise.

IPD21 personnel also conducted drills with the Indian Navy, Royal Australian Navy and U.S. Navy in the two-phase Malabar 2021 exercise around Guam and in the Philippine Sea in August and September.

IPD21 also included port visits to Australia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Japan’s focus on the Pacific islands region is a significant development, Japan defense analyst Jeffrey Hornung of the Rand Corp. told FORUM. IPD21 visits to New Caledonia and Palau, for example, coincided with the Japan Pacific Islands Defense Dialogue, an online ministerial-level event hosted by Japan and involving representatives from 19 other countries, including Pacific island nations and countries with ties to the region.

“The Goodwill Exercise [with Palau] itself is not, I think, the significant part, but rather the strengthening of relations,” Hornung said.

Visiting the French territory of New Caledonia is important, he added, because it involves Japan reaching out to the only European power with a permanent military presence in the region. Moreover, visiting the region and talking with its leaders about their defense concerns — such as natural disasters, illegal fishing and freedom of navigation — extends goodwill and strengthens Japan’s position.

“It is very much about partnership building,” Hornung said. “And it goes hand in hand with what we see Japan doing as part of this Indo-Pacific deployment. When placed in context with all the dialogues and bilateral meetings that have taken place over the last six, eight months, it’s pretty significant. Japan is going full court press here on building relationships with India, the United Kingdom, France, Pacific islands, Australia … you name it.”




Felix Kim is a FORUM contributor reporting from Seoul, South Korea.

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One Comment

  1. “The Goodwill Exercise [with Palau] itself is not, I think, the significant part, but rather the strengthening of relations,” Hornung said…
    ??? Who is Jeffrey Hornung of the Rand Corp? What does he know about maritime security? Palau? Pacific? etc.. When I launched Micronesia maritime security project in 2008, US had not done anything, yet.

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