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US, Australia, Japan to hold joint exercises in northwestern Pacific

China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-01-27 09:20

Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States commonwealth consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, have been told to expect active military aircraft when joint exercises are conducted in the area in February.

The activity will be part of the Cope North 2022 military exercises involving the air forces of the United States, Australia and Japan, according to the newspaper Marianas Variety News.

Flight operations will be conducted on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Rota and Farallon de Medinilla, the newspaper reported.

The exercises will be part of a series of joint drills in the region by the US and its allies. Japan and the US launched exercises last week in the Philippine Sea. Two US aircraft carriers and two amphibious ships, along with their escorts and 26 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, drilled with a Japanese large-deck warship, according to the website of the United States Naval Institute.

Those drills were the largest involving aviation-capable ships since the October exercise with two US Navy carrier strike groups, the British Royal Navy's Carrier Strike Group 21 and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Escort Flotilla 2.

On Friday, the US missile destroyer USS Benfold sailed into waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea without permission from the Chinese government. Wu Qian, spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defense, said the People's Liberation Army had sent air and naval forces to monitor the US warship and warn it off.

Wu said this was not "freedom of navigation" as claimed by the United States, but an act that violated China's sovereignty and undermined the peace and stability of the South China Sea.

"The Chinese military strongly deplores and resolutely opposes the US act," he said, adding that the Chinese military will take all necessary measures to respond to any threats or provocations.

Meanwhile, the F-35C fighter that crashed on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on Monday, injuring seven sailors, was lost over the edge of the flight deck, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The pilot and two other sailors were (evacuated) to a medical treatment facility in Manila, Philippines, and four sailors were treated by onboard medical personnel," the statement said.

The US Navy said it will recover the F-35C fighter, which has the military's latest stealth and electronic warfare hardware on board, from the bottom of the South China Sea, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Vinson and its carrier strike group departed San Diego to start its 2021 deployment in August the first deployment including the F-35C Lightning II and the CMV-22B Osprey, and the second time a carrier strike group with such capabilities has operated in the South China Sea, according to the Navy Times.

The US has deployed multiple warships, including aircraft carriers, to the South China Sea in a show of its military might.

The Monday fighter accident showed the weak point in the military strength that the US is attempting to show off in the vicinity of China, said Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military analyst.

Although the cause of the crash has not been disclosed and the US Navy is investigating the accident, Wei speculated that the pilot might not have had control of the jet or the stability of the aircraft itself might have been a problem.

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