Defense Heads of Japan, Australia, U.S. and Philippines to Meet in Hawaii; Carrier Roosevelt Makes Port Call in Thailand

April 26, 2024 7:30 PM
USS Mobile, JS Akebono, HMAS Warramunga, BRP Antonio Luna and BRP Valentine Diaz sail in formation during a multilateral maritime cooperative activity between Australia, the United States, Japan and the Philippines off the coast within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone on April 7, 2024. Royal Australian Navy Photo

The defense chiefs of Australia, Japan, the Philippines and the United States will meet in Hawaii to discuss the regional security situation and strengthening collaboration, announced Japan Defense Minister Minoru Kihara on Friday. In other developments, the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group docked into the port city of Laem Chabang, Thailand, on Wednesday and People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyers sailed around Japan’s southwest islands this week.

During his regular Friday press conference, Kihara said the meeting with his counterparts will take place during his visit to Hawaii from May 2-4. They will share their understanding of the regional security environment and common challenges, Kihara said, along with discussing measures to improve collaboration among the four countries “Through this visit, I hope to send a strong message of unity among allies and like-minded countries toward the realization of a rule-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” stated the Japanese defense chief.

Kihara provided no further specifics on the meeting, but he and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro are likely to discuss next steps following the joint patrol in the South China Sea earlier this month. Kihara is also expected to hold a separate bilateral meeting with Austin in Hawaii. The four defense chiefs, along with other senior defense and military leaders, will be in Hawaii to see the change of command ceremony for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command from Adm. John Aquilino to Adm. Samuel Paparo on May 3.

During his press conference, Kihara stated that on Thursday, a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon carried out a search in the area in which two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopters collided on Saturday night. Seven JMSDF personnel remain missing from that incident, despite intensive search efforts by the JMSDF, Japan Coast Guard ships and Japanese military aircraft. An eighth crewmember was recovered on the night of the crash and pronounced dead. Kihara also said JMSDF oceanographic research ship JS Shonan (AGS-5106) is scheduled to begin searching for the wreckage of the main bodies of the helicopters from Saturday onwards. Despite recovering the flight data recorders of both helicopters, along with some parts of the helicopters and crew equipment shortly after the incident, the main bodies of both helicopters have yet to be located.

Chinese destroyers underway. JMSDF Photo

Meanwhile, the Theodore Roosevelt CSG pulled into Laem Chabang, Thailand, on Wednesday for a port visit. Carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was accompanied by destroyers USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), USS Howard (DDG-83), USS Halsey (DDG-97) and USS Russell (DDG-59), which also docked into port. Howard is part of the forward deployment to Japan Destroyer Squadron 15, while the other destroyers belong to the San Diego based DESRON 23. “We are grateful to the Thais for their hospitality in welcoming our strike group for this port visit,” said Rear Adm. Christopher Alexander, commander of the Theodore Roosevelt CSG in a U.S. Embassy Bangkok social media post. “During this deployment, we have had several opportunities to meet, train and operate with allies and partners across the region, and we look forward to this chance to strengthen the long-standing friendship between the U.S. Navy and Thailand.”

No details were provided as to how long the CSG would be in Thailand, and the Navy has so far not issued any official release on the visit. The Theodore Roosevelt CSG was previously operating in the South China Sea.

In other developments, Japan’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) issued a release on Friday stating that at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, PLAN destroyers CNS Baotou (133) and CNS Shaoxing (134) were sighted sailing south in an area 49 miles northwest of Uotsuri Island and subsequently sighted still sailing south in an area 43 miles west of the island. The PLAN destroyers then sailed south between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan to enter the Philippine Sea. Later on Friday, according to the JSO release, the PLAN destroyers sailed southwest between the islands of Amami Oshima and Yokoate-Jima to enter the East China Sea. The PLAN destroyers were shadowed by JMSDF destroyer escort JS Jintsu (DE-230) and minesweeper JS Hirado (MSO-305), along with JMSDF P-1s maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya Air Base on the main island of Kyushu. JMSDF P-3C Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, carried out surveillance on the PLAN ships.

Earlier on Thursday, the JSO issued a release stating that on the morning of that day, a Russian IL-20 electronic intelligence aircraft flew from the Russian continent south over the Sea of Japan before turning northwest while it was off the Noto Peninsula on the main island of Honshu, and headed back to Russia. Subsequently that afternoon, an IL-38 MPA flew in from the Russian mainland and then flew north over the Sea of Japan before turning west while off the coast of Okushiri Island, located 12 miles west of the main island of Hokkaido, and returned to Russia. Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft of the JASDF Northern Air Defense Force were scrambled to intercept.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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