Saturday, November 8, 2003

Pearl Harbor submarines
in joint naval exercise

TOKYO >> Japan's navy began a major annual training exercise yesterday, including joint maneuvers with the U.S. Navy, mobilizing as many as 25,000 personnel, 80 ships and 170 aircraft around Japanese shores.

During the 10-day maneuvers -- the largest this year -- the Maritime Self-Defense Force will be joined by the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet to simulate anti-submarine, air defense and anti-ship warfare, according to Japan's Defense Agency. The training is part of an annual exercise aimed at countering a "national crisis," the agency said.

The U.S. Navy is mobilizing about 10 Japanese-based vessels, including two submarines from Pearl Harbor, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur, as well as some 7,500 personnel, Navy spokesman Jon Nylander said.

Among the Japanese vessels participating is the 7,250-ton Kirishima, a destroyer equipped with the advanced Aegis air defense system. Reconnaissance planes and helicopters will also take part.

Officials refused to comment on exactly where the maneuvers were being held, saying only that they were in "Japanese waters."

Japan has been providing noncombat assistance such as refueling and shuttling of supplies to U.S. and British ships in the Arabian Sea since late 2001 to support the U.S.-led war against terror. Japan's pacifist constitution restricts its military to a noncombat role overseas.

Three Japanese warships carrying about 600 sailors left for the Arabian Sea in late October after the Cabinet approved a six-month extension of the mission.


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