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US, Japan conduct Keen Edge exercises simulating defense of First Island Chain

2024 multi-domain military exercises joined by contingent from Australian Defence Force

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U.S. Marines from the Third Marine Expeditionary Force conduct exercise with USS Ohio Submarine in Okinawa Prefecture, 2021. 

U.S. Marines from the Third Marine Expeditionary Force conduct exercise with USS Ohio Submarine in Okinawa Prefecture, 2021.  (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. military and Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) this week are conducting joint training exercises on Japan’s southwest islands with a contingent from the Australian Defence Force.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command announced the start of the Keen Edge 2024 military exercises on Feb. 1, with exercises to last until Thursday (Feb. 8). The exercises are designed to increase interoperability and to refine command and control procedures, per a press release.

In contrast to previous Keen Edge exercises, this year the U.S. Space Command and U.S. Cyber Command will play an enhanced role in simulating various contingencies to better reflect modern warfare and incorporate multi-domain collaboration. “During Keen Edge 24, Japanese, U.S., and Australian headquarters staff will employ computer simulations to practice responses in the event of a crisis or contingency,” per the press release.

A separate announcement said that U.S. Marines and sailors from the Third Marine Expeditionary Force will partner with JSDF ground forces to simulate the defense of maritime terrain along the first island chain during a “large-scale theater” exercise.

The press release notes that exercises will take place along the “southwest islands” of Okinawa Prefecture. At least some of the Keen Edge exercises will likely take place around the Yaeyama Islands, located east of Taiwan.

In 2023, Japan revamped its base and increased troops on Ishigaki Island, and also announced its decision to place Patriot missiles on Miyako Island. Analysts suggested that Japan’s Yaeyama Islands would play a crucial role in supplying Taiwan with material support in the event of a blockade or invasion by China.

This year’s Keen Edge exercises will be led by Lt. General Roger B. Turner, who commands the Third Marine Expeditionary Force, and Lt. General Yamane Toshikazu, commander of the JGSDF’s Western Army.