Japan, U.S., S. Korea Coast Guards Plan Joint Exercise; Moves by China, N. Korea Spur New Cooperation

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National flags of South Korea , USA and Japan

The Japan Coast Guard plans to hold a joint exercise with the coast guards of the United States and South Korea in the Sea of Japan in early June, according to sources close to the government.

It will be the first trilateral coast guard exercise between the three countries. As China and Russia are increasing their confrontational stances against the United States and Europe, the three countries aim to ensure the maritime stability and security of the sea area under the rule of law.

The leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed to establish a new trilateral maritime security cooperation framework at a trilateral summit at Camp David in August. Following the agreement, the coast guards of these countries signed a first letter of intent confirming that they will work to strengthen cooperation earlier this month.

According to the sources, they are making arrangements to conduct the trilateral exercise off the coast of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, on June 6. In the scheduled trilateral exercise, patrol boats and drones of the U.S. Coast Guard will join the Japan-South Korea joint search-and-rescue drills that the two countries have conducted since 2007. The coast guards aim to enhance interoperability between their patrol boats, guard ships and airplanes through search-and-rescue operation drills, communication exercises and other exercises.

The three countries will not only hold the trilateral exercise regularly in the future but will also help Southeast Asian and Pacific island nations strengthen their maritime security capabilities. They will also deepen cooperation in a maritime domain awareness (MDA) initiative that will help detect suspicious ships by aggregating maritime data.

Behind these efforts to strengthen cooperation are  the continued threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and moves by China, which continues to increase aggressive military activities in the East and South China Seas, to show off its close ties with Russia.

In a related example of multilateral cooperation, the coast guards of Japan, the United States and the Philippines held their first trilateral maritime exercise off the coast of Mariveles in the northern Philippines, on the South China Sea, in June 2023.