A four-nation naval exercise comprising the United States Navy, United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, the French Navy, and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force that was slated to begin on Friday in the Pacific Ocean off the U.S. territory of Guam has been indefinitely postponed following an accident involving a French landing craft.
A French catamaran landing craft ran aground early on Friday, bringing the drills to a standstill. According to U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Grimes, chief of staff for Joint Region Marianas, a date for the resumption of the drills has not been set.
According to Jeff Landis, a spokesman for Naval Base Guam, the French vessel did not spill any fuel or hit coral. No sailors or other personnel were injured in the incident either. The four-nation exercises were expected to last for a week and focus on a range of amphibious warfare-focused operations; in addition to the U.S. Navy, around 100 U.S. Marines were expected to participate. The French Navy has deployed its advanced amphibious assault ship the FS Mistral to Guam.
“The message we want to send is that we’re always ready to train and we’re always ready for the next crisis and humanitarian disaster wherever that may be,” U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Kemper Jones, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, said before the start of the exercise, according to the Associated Press.
The exercise is notable for including the United Kingdom and France alongside the United States and Japan. As nuclear-armed powers and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, France and the UK have stakes in the regional security architecture of the Asia-Pacific. France has the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone after the United States.
The amphibious warfare focus in this exercise is also of interest to Japan, which has intensified its own focus on amphibious operations in recent years, planning for a possible contingency in the East China Sea or along the Ryukyu island chain. Tokyo sent 50 soldiers and 160 sailors to Guam for the exercises, along with a landing craft of its own.