Wednesday, October 20, 2004

US, Australia, Japan, France hold naval drills

The US, Australia, Japan, and France are all holding joint naval exercises near Japan:

Australia, Japan, the United States and France will take part in a joint maritime exercise to intercept weapons of mass destruction on October 26 in waters south-west of Tokyo, Japanese officials have said.

About 10 naval and coast guard vessels from the four countries and observers from 18 other nations will take part in the drill off Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture despite concerns that it could provoke North Korea.

It is the first time an Asian country is hosting a drill under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), formed at the behest of US President George W Bush in May last year, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

About 380 personnel from Japan's Defence Agency and Self-Defence Forces and some 200 others from the Japan Coast Guard will take part along with five coast guard vessels and a Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyer.

Air planes and helicopters from the JCG and the SDF will also join the drill, the officials said.

Australia, France and the United States will each deploy one naval vessel, they said.

Japan invited China and South Korea to the drill since there is no rule as to which countries can participate but they decided not to join in, the officials said.

North Korea has criticised the move to hold the drill in Japan, calling it ''provocative".

The PSI has 15 core member countries that have held similar exercises 11 times since September last year.


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