US, Japan, Australia, and S. Korea join inaugural 'Pacific Vanguard' naval exercises

Six days of naval drills to be held near Guam in Western Pacific

USS Blue Ridge in front of Japan's Mt. Fuji

USS Blue Ridge in front of Japan's Mt. Fuji (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The United States continues to shore up military alliances in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s rapid military expansion in the region. On May 23, the navies of Japan, South Korean, and Australia joined the U.S. led Pacific Vanguard naval exercises near the U.S. territory of Guam in the Western Pacific.

The “first-of-its-kind” Pacific Vanguard exercises are scheduled to last six days, and will include as many as 3,000 service personnel from the four countries, reports Reuters. Commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, Vice-Admiral Philip Sawyer was quoted in statement from the U.S. Navy.

"Pacific Vanguard joins forces from four, like-minded maritime nations that provide security throughout the Indo-Pacific based on shared values and common interests. This exercise advances the integration of our forces, and enables an effective collaborative response to a range of events that might occur in the region.”

The Royal Australian Navy is represented by two frigates, the HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Parramatta, while the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is represented by two destroyers, the JS Ariake and JS Asahi. South Korea dispatched a single destroyer, the ROKS Wang Geon.

The U.S. contingent of five participating ships includes the flag ship of the Seventh Fleet, the USS Blue Ridge, along with the guided missile destroyers, USS Antietam and the USS Curtis Wilbur. Two support vessels have also joined, the tanker ship, USNS Rappahannock, and the transport ship, the USNS Richard E. Byrd.

Defense Post reports that the exercises will include live fire exercises, defensive counter-air operations, anti-submarine warfare, and replenishment at sea operations.

The start of the Pacific Vanguard exercises follow directly after two U.S. naval vessels, including the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Preble and the Navy oil tanker, the USNS Walter S. Diehl, passed through the Taiwan Strait, marking the fifth such passage in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese Navy and Air Force just kicked off the country's largest seabound live-fire drills in the last five years off Taiwan’s east coast. The military mobilized 22 ships and 22 aircraft Wednesday (May 22) to start to the live fire drills as part of its annual Han-Kuang military exercises.