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US aircraft carriers lead ‘large deck’ exercises with Japan east of Taiwan

Seoul, South Korea CNN —

A dozen United States and Japanese warships, including two US aircraft carriers, have been putting on a show of military might this week in the Philippine Sea east of Taiwan.

Analysts say the joint exercises show the US Navy can respond to contingencies across a broad swath of Asian waters where tensions with China remain high – even while facing hostilities in the Middle East.

The US Navy aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt were joined by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Ise, seven US guided-missile destroyers and two US cruisers for what the Navy calls a Multi-Large Deck Event (MLDE).

“The U.S. and Japan are uniquely capable of rapidly assembling multiple large-deck naval forces in support of mutual security interests in the Indo Pacific,” Rear Adm. Carlos Sardiello, commander of the Vinson-led Carrier Strike Group 1, said in a statement.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during exercises in the Philippine Sea on Jan. 31.

The dozen warships conducted “defense drills, sea surveillance, cross-deck exercises and tactical maneuvers to advance unique high-end warfighting capability,” the US Navy statement said.

The exercises began Monday and were scheduled to conclude Thursday, according to a statement from the Japanese military.

Collin Koh, research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said while exercises occur regularly in the area, the timing of this show of force is important.

“There had been earlier trepidations that the Mideast flareups would draw a US strategic refocus away from the Western Pacific,” Koh said.

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