While US President Joe Biden threatened to take unspecified defensive actions against North Korea over its ongoing missile tests, an armada from four nations continued war games in the Philippine Sea.
Gathering warships from India, Japan, Australia, and the US 7th Fleet, Exercise Malabar 2022 began Tuesday, Nov. 8, and runs 10 days. Officials said the forces will focus on anti-submarine warfare, air defense, multinational replenishment-at-sea operations, communications, gunnery, maritime interdiction, and operational planning.
Malabar kicked off in 1992 with joint maritime maneuvers by the US and India. This year’s exercises will mark the third time Japan and Australia have participated.
“This exercise represents an outstanding opportunity for our like-minded maritime forces to work together, demonstrating our shared commitment to the region and collaborative approach toward security and stability,” said Rear Adm. Michael “Buzz” Donnelly, the commander of the US 7th Fleet’s Task Force 70 and the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, in a prepared statement. “Now, it is more important than ever for the forward-deployed carrier strike group to work closely with other maritime forces and deter all who challenge a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
During a Monday press conference in Indonesia, Biden told reporters gathered for the G-20 economic summit in Bali that he’d warned his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, that Beijing has “an obligation” to stop neighboring North Korea from lobbing long-range test missiles across the Pacific, and that the US would take unnamed “defensive” actions if it continued.
While Biden assured reporters that his forces wouldn’t target China for reprisals, the president said he wanted to “send a clear message” to North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un that the US will “defend our allies as well as American soil and American capacity.”
That capacity is on full display south of Tokyo this week, with the US 7th Fleet sending the Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, plus the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville and the guided-missile destroyer Milius.
They’re joined by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s helicopter destroyer Hyūga, the guided-missile destroyers Shiranui and Takanami, the replenishment ship Ōmi, and multiple P-1 maritime patrol aircraft.
The Royal Australian Navy added the guided-missile frigate Arunta, the oiler Stalwart, the diesel-electric submarine Farncomb, and Royal Australian Air Force P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.
India deployed the stealth frigate Shivalik, the anti-sub corvette Kamorta, a P-8I maritime patrol and reconnaissance jet, and an undisclosed number of Marine commandos, according to the US 7th Fleet.
“Participation in high-end maritime exercises, such as Exercise Malabar, demonstrates Australia’s commitment to working with strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Rear Adm. Jonathan Earley, commander of the Australian Fleet, in a prepared statement. “This exercise contributes to regional security by deepening professional relationships among India, Japan and the United States to build interoperability in the maritime domain.”