United States and Australia started a joint military exercise called ‘Talisman Sabre’ which is set to go on for two weeks in the states of Northern Territory and Queensland.
The US and Australia kicked off a massive joint biennial military exercise on Sunday, with Japan taking part for the first time.
The two-week “Talisman Sabre” exercise in the Northern Territory and Queensland involves 30,000 personnel from the US and Australia practising operations at sea, in the air and on land.
About 40 personnel from Japan’s army – the Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) – will join the American contingent, while more than 500 troops from New Zealand are also involved in the exercise, which concludes on July 21.
“It is a very, very important alliance,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday, referring to Australia-U.S ties.
“It’s a very important relationship and right now we are facing quite significant challenges in many parts of the world but particularly in the Middle East,” Abbott added in Sydney on board the USS Blue Ridge, which is taking part in the exercises.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Donavon Baldwin, a member of Marine Rotational Force in Darwin and an artillery equipment subject matter expert highlighted the importance of the U.S. and Australian alliance on display at the event and in the exercise.
“We want to be able to work together as if we’re one team and so in order to do that we have to train like one team,” Baldwin said. “We are out here in conjunction with the Australians in order to build that relationship bond.”
Darwin is one of several locations in Australia where Talisman Sabre operations are taking place, including Rockhampton, Amberley, Canberra, Enoggera, Fog Bay, the maritime areas of the Coral Sea; and Australian ranges including the Bradshaw, Shoalwater and Townsville Field Training Areas.
Royal Australian Navy Commodore Brenton Smyth, Headquarters Northern Command commander, underscored the importance of having Talisman Sabre operations in the Darwin area for the first time.
“This provides us a major opportunity for our defence personnel … to operate in a combined environment that is unique,” Smyth said.
The war games, being held for the sixth time, come as China continues to flex its strategic and economic muscle in the region.
The US has been pursuing a foreign policy “pivot” towards Asia, which has rattled China, and is rotating Marines through northern Australia — a move announced by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Australia has stepped up its relationship with Japan in recent years and last July, Abbott described Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as “a very, very close friend” during a state visit to Canberra.
The Australian government is also considering buying Soryu-class submarines from Japan, which Lee, the China expert, said would be fully integrated with U.S. weapons systems.
Japan’s involvement has in part also been driven by domestic politics, Asian security specialist Craig Snyder of Deakin University said, as Abe’s right-wing government tries to increase Tokyo’s participation in the regional security arena.