The US Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) have started an annual bilateral maritime field exercise off the Japanese coast.

Annual Exercise 2019 (ANNUALEX 19) allows the US Navy and JMSDF to jointly practice coordination procedures and interoperability.

ANNUALEX 19 also helps improve the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

JMSDF Self Defense Fleet commander-in-chief vice-admiral Hiroyuki Kasui said: “The bonds between JMSDF and US Navy become stronger than they have ever been. Our sturdy relationship will contribute to promoting the free and open Indo-Pacific.

“I have strong faith that this bilateral exercise will enhance the interoperability between JMSDF and US Navy, the facilitation of the cooperative response against the contingency situation, and finally, the reliability and the deterrence effects of Japan-US security arrangements.”

All participating units will train in air, surface, and subsurface battlespaces. The forces will practice critical capabilities that are necessary for the defence of Japan.

The scenario during the exercise will also see the forces practice the response to a potential crisis in the Indo-Pacific region.

US 7th Fleet commander vice-admiral Bill Merz said: “Everything we do in 7th Fleet promotes and reinforces the singular goal of promoting security and stability throughout the region.

“Collaboration with partners like the Kaijo Jieitai protects the peace and prosperity that benefit all countries in the region.”

US assets participating in ANNUALEX 19 include ships assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15.

The exercise will see DESRON 15 work alongside the JMSDF, as well as the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Canadian Navy.