A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels began a bilateral military exercise in the Philippine Sea on Monday.
“The routine exercise is designed to improve combined maritime response and defense capabilities, increase combined maneuvering proficiency, and ensure maritime forces remain ready to defend the region when called upon,” a U.S. statement released by Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, the commander of the carrier strike group, noted.
The USS Carl Vinson strike group, comprising the eponymous aircraft carrier, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy participated in the exercise from the U.S. side.
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force sent two vessels. JS Samidare and JS Ashigara, two destroyers, joined the exercise with the U.S. carrier group.
The USS Carl Vinson is sailing north via the Philippine Sea after completing regular exercises in the South China Sea, the Tsunda Strait, and the Celebes Sea. The carrier group is en route to waters near the Korean peninsula as tensions remain high following North Korea’s latest missile launches.
“We always look forward to operating with our Japanese partners,” Kilby noted. “The relationship between the JMSDF and the United States is better than ever and it’s in part thanks to these bilateral exercises.”
The Carl Vinson carrier strike group has been conducting regular operations in the Asia-Pacific region since its deployment earlier this year.
Last week, the strike group was under scrutiny amid earlier reporting that it had already traveled north to waters off the Korean peninsula ahead of a major North Korean military parade on April 15.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump had referred to strike group as an “armada” in an interview, noting that he had ordered the carrier group to the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has taken note of the USS Carl Vinson‘s northbound journey. It tested what appear to be two anti-ship ballistic missiles in April, with the first test coming shortly after U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral anti-submarine warfare exercises earlier this month.
North Korea also released a new propaganda video highlighting an attack the Carl Vinson strike group.