U.S., Japan Begin Joint Military Drills after China Enters Japanese Waters

The U.S. and Japan have kicked off computer-based naval drills focused on ballistic missiles defense days after Chinese vessels entered Japanese waters near a disputed island chain, raising tensions in East Asia as President Joe Biden works to create unified China and North Korea strategies with regional American allies.

The U.S. 7th Fleet, headquartered in Japan and responsible for operations in East Asia, announced on Monday that the Resilient Shield 2021 exercises would run from February 22 to February 26 at more than 77 American and Japanese command centers.

The annual computer-based drill is designed to test joint tactics used to face regional threats—the most pressing of which are China and North Korea—and ensure that both American and Japanese forces are "well-rehearsed," in them, a fleet statement said.

"Resilient Shield serves to enhance cooperation and further integrate the unmatched missile defense capabilities of Japan and the United States," said Captain Leslie Sobol, the director of the fleet's Task Force Integrated Air and Missile Defense.

"This exercise will hone our tactical and operational skill to defeat the most stressing missile defense contingencies."

The drills come days after Chinese coast guard vessels entered Japanese territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands—known in China as the Diaoyu Islands—of which both Tokyo and Beijing claim ownership.

Four coast guard ships entered Japanese waters early last Monday, the Kyodo news agency reported citing the Japanese coast guard.

The vessels—at least one of which appeared to be armed with an autocannon—pointed their bows at a Japanese fishing boat and made moves to approach it. The vessels later left the area when Japanese coast guard units arrived.

Japan's foreign ministry lodged an official protest with Beijing over the intrusion, which is the seventh time this year Chinese vessels have entered Japanese waters, according to Japan's 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters.

Increasing Chinese assertiveness in regional territorial disputes is one of Biden's most pressing issues as he builds a strategy to contain Beijing while trying to encourage the Chinese Communist Party to act as a responsible stakeholder in the U.S.-crafted international system.

Chinese forces are agitating along the Indian border, in the South China Sea, around Taiwan, and in the East China Sea. American allies are looking to Washington, D.C. for support and for signs Biden will deliver on his promise to revitalize American partnerships after four years of unpredictable and unilateral foreign policy under President Donald Trump.

But Beijing will be looking to assert itself with the new administration. China shows no sign of concessions, and at the start of this month a new law came into effect in China allowing its coast guards to use weapons against foreign ships entering what Beijing considers to be its territorial waters.

Helicopter of US 7th Fleet pictured
An MH-60S Sea Hawk is pictured above the flight deck of the U.S. 7th Fleet's aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on February 20, 2021. U.S. and Japan have kicked off computer-based naval drills after Chinese vessels entered Japanese waters. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular/U.S. Navy