The Makin Island Amphibious Group (ARG) docked at the port of Busan in the Republic of Korea (ROK) as part of their participation in the U.S.-ROK Exercise Ssangyong this week.
Exercise Ssangyong was on hiatus since 2018 after the previous Moon Jae-in government suspended major U.S.- Republic of Korea military exercises to lower tensions with North Korea. The Yoon Suk-yeol administration resumed military drills. In response, North Korea fired a series of ballistic and cruise missile launches into the Sea of Japan.
Before the Makin Island ARG’s arrival at Busan, North Korea reportedly test-fired four cruise missiles from its eastern coast into the sea.
This year’s iteration will take place around Pohang with ROK Marine Corps units and the 13th MEU conducting amphibious landings and performing naval drills between U.S. and ROK Navy ships. The drills will also include a contingent of U.K. Royal Marines. Similar small detachments of U.K. ground forces have been also been participating in exercises in Japan in the past months.
Prior to docking at Busan, the ARG sailed with nine ships of the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) on Tuesday. Among the nine ROKN ships were both of the ROKN’s Dokdo class amphibious assault ships, ROKS Dokdo (LPH-6111) and ROKS Marado (LPH-6112).
Chinese and Russian Ships Spotted Near Japan
In Japan, the People’s Liberation Army Navy frigate CNS Binzhou (515) was sighted sailing west over the weekend in an area 75 miles southwest of Ishigaki Island. On Sunday, the PLAN frigate sailed north between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan and, subsequently, was sighted sailing north in an area 50 miles west of Uotsuri Island, part of the Senkaku Islands, according to the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense officials.
Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer escort JS Jintsu (DE-230) shadowed the PLAN frigate. Officials said Binzhou sailed northeast through the waters between Amami Oshima and the uninhabited volcanic island of Yokoate-jima and entered the Pacific Ocean on March 16.
On Thursday, Russian Navy intelligence ship Kareliya (535) was sighted sailing west in an area 50 miles southeast of Okinawa before it sailed west through the Miyako Strait to enter the East China Sea. The release added that minesweeper JS Yakushima (MSC-602) shadowed the Russian ship.
On Wednesday, dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD-48) departed Sasebo for its new homeport of San Diego, Calif., according to a 7th Fleet release. Ashland arrived at Sasebo in 2013 as part of Expeditionary Strike Group 7.
Meanwhile, a third U.S. Littoral Combat Ship, USS Mobile (LCS-26), is now deployed to the Indo-Pacific, joining USS Charleston (LCS-18) and USS Oakland (LCS-24), according to a 3rd Fleet release on Thursday.
The LCSs are taking part in U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard joint patrol in the Western Pacific under the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) to reduce and eliminate illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing, combat transnational crimes and enhance regional security with the patrol being conducted by Mobile with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment from the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. Charleston is currently operating around the Indian Ocean while Oakland is around the South China Sea.