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B-52 bomber joins joint U.S. - Japan exercise

Date Posted: 2010-12-09

The United States is flexing its military muscle and Japan’s Self Defense Forces are doing the same in an eight-day joint exercise in the air, in the Sea of Japan and on land that demonstrates commitments to the Japan~U.S. Alliance.

The U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber, which for decades has served America with its nuclear and conventional ordnance, is involved in Exercise Keen Sword for the first time, deploying from Andersen Air Base in Guam. The U.S. Navy’s USS George Washington nuclear powered aircraft strike group based at Yokosuka is involved, too, a move intended to signal North Korea that America will firmly support its allies, ignoring the Communist nation’s warnings that the exercise, as well as another exercise involving the South Korean military, are pressing the region closer to war.

For the first time, South Korea is participating in Keen Sword as an observer, now in its 10th iteration since initially being held in 1986. Exercise elements are being conducted at Japan Self Defense Force bases across the country, as well as at sea and in the air. A total of 34,000 SDF personnel, 40 ships and 250 aircraft are involved, along with roughly 10,000 U.S. military personnel, 20 ships and 150 aircraft. The exercise scenarios center on coping with mock attacks on Japan.

The exercise began earlier in the week, even as tensions rose on the Korean peninsula as South Korea announced a four-day exercise that includes firing artillery from 29 locations, including Yeongpyong Island, which was shelled by North Korea two weeks ago killing to civilians and two military personnel, while destroying dozens of homes and buildings. South Korea has military personnel on board a U.S. Navy Aegis ship, observing missile defense training.

The USS George Washington and Japan’s helicopter destroyer vessel, the Hyuga, are operating in waters off Okinawa and northward along the southwest coast from Kyushu. “By conducting exercises such as Keen Sword,” says Lt. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of the U.S. 13th Air Force, “we are ensuring that our forces will continue to be effective in meeting challenges of the 21st century.” The SDF and U.S. units will coordinate actions to detect, track and intercept a ballistic missile aimed at Japan, while Air Self Defense Forces from Komatsu base in Ishikawa Prefecture are flying F-15’s to stage air-defense operations. U.S. F-16 aircraft are involved along with the B-52’s, which are simulating attacking mock enemy ships approaching Japan’s southwestern islands, including Okinawa.

The exercise is general in nature, says Japan’s Defense Minister. Toshimi Kitazawa says “naturally we take into consideration changes in the security environment in surrounding areas, but with this, we are not targeting a specific country.” Kitazawa says the drills will strengthen cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States.

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