Keen Sword 21, a joint US-Japanese military exercise began this past Monday and will run until 5 November. It is taking place in Japan, Okinawa and the surrounding waters. Over 9,000 US troops are involved, along with over 100 US Navy and USAF aircraft. Keen Sword is the first major military exercise to involve Japanese forces since Yoshihide Suga came to power last month and comes as Chinese military activity continues to ramp up around the region. Suga has vowed to continue Japan’s military buildup as the nation’s security situation has become more complex and considerably more dangerous. Tokyo is becoming especially worried about rising Chinese naval activity around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. These islands are claimed by both Japan, and China and there have been tense encounters between air and sea units of both nations there in the past.
China is also concerned with the situation in Taiwan following US approval of a $2.4 Billion weapons package that includes 400 Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles and land-based launchers. The Harpoons give Taiwan an increased ability to strike back against an attack from the Chinese mainland. Beijing realizes this too and has placed sanctions on a number of US defense companies involved in the deal. In the greater scheme of things, China is realizing its efforts to cajole Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen into a blanket endorsement of the One-China principle have failed. Taiwan is moving closer to the United States, and the results of next week’s presidential election in the US will help shed light on what direction China will take next concerning its Taiwan policy.
Author’s Note: Thursday evening (US Eastern Time) I’ll be posting a piece about the standoff on the Sino-Indian frontier and what direction it may be going in over the winter. I was hoping to have to ready today but unfortunately this afternoon has become unexpectedly busy. – Mike