U.S. carrier’s journey highlights U.S.-Japan alliance, sends message to would-be aggressors
The USS Abraham Lincoln sailed through the Indo-Pacific in recent weeks, displaying power to deter adversaries and highlighting the strong ties between the United States and Japan.
U.S. fighter jets maneuvered through the skies over the Philippine Sea in late April 2022 as Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel watched from the aircraft carrier’s flight deck, according to news reports.
“Today, I was able to experience firsthand the frontline of national security,” Hayashi told reporters in the hangar deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln sailing in waters south of Tokyo, according to Reuters, while pledging that Japan will “significantly strengthen” its defense capabilities and work even closer with the U.S.
Hayashi and Emanuel warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine posed security risks beyond Europe and into the Indo-Pacific. “Enhancing response capabilities through practical training directly ties into robust interoperability and readiness of the alliance,” Hayashi told reporters, according to the Stars and Stripes newspaper. “These important undertakings also show that both Japan and the U.S. are fully prepared to take on any contingencies at any time.” (Pictured: U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, left, and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi walk through side boys prior to boarding an MV-22 aircraft while en route to the USS Abraham Lincoln.)
Hayashi described the Indo-Pacific’s security environment as “increasingly severe,” stopping short of naming specific threats, according to Stars and Strips. Emanuel and Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, however, called out the People’s Republic of China (PRC), North Korea and Russia as sources of potential conflict in the region, the newspaper reported. The U.S.-Japan alliance is built on common values and shared understanding that contribute to its readiness to meet these and other threats, according to Thomas.
“We’re truly interoperable and interchangeable among our forces. But the thing that strikes me is the way that we both see the problem today, the way that we react and understand the challenges we have,” Thomas told reporters, according to the website Japan Forward. “And I’ve never seen our alliance be tighter than it is today.”
Before traversing the Philippine Sea, the USS Abraham Lincoln completed another freedom of navigation operation in the Sea of Japan. “And it was a statement by an aircraft carrier that had been sailing in the South China Sea just a week and a half earlier [that it] could move that rapidly,” Thomas told reporters, according to Japan Forward. “That’s the benefit of this carrier. We did sail — the Abraham Lincoln sailed up through the Sea of Japan — just to make sure that other nations understood the versatility of this ship, and to maybe send a message to [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un that we’re aware of your missile launches and not appreciative of the increased tempo. We’re always ready to do that type of operation. And that’s the flexibility that we bring as a forward deployed force.”
Japan has a huge role to play in the region’s security and stability, Thomas said, particularly because of its proximity to the PRC.
“The fact that they have a very capable military allows them the leadership role that is necessary for this entire part of the world,” Thomas said. “And I’m very happy with the tight coordination that our two nations exhibit on a daily basis. The missions that I just talked about going up into the Sea of Japan, I had Japanese ships with this carrier operating up there. It’s very important that like-minded nations operate together, and Japan has a very strong leadership role to play.”
IMAGE CREDIT: PETTY OFFICER ANGE-OLIVIER CLEMENT/U.S. NAVY