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Japan, France hold joint military exercises in China’s backyard

The first bilateral air force exercise between the French Air and Space Force (FASF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) recently ended with the goal of enhancing “tactical skills” and developing stronger military ties between the two countries.

The JASDF tweeted a video of the joint aerial exercise’s highlights on July 31 along with the remark, “From July 26 to July 28, the JASDF conducted bilateral training with FASF”.

The tweet also mentioned General Stéphane Mille, Chief of the French Defence Staff (CEMAAE), visiting Japan for the joint air exercise to watch training exercises and speak with General Uchikura, Chief of Staff of the JASDF.

The French Air and Space Force sent a group of military aircraft to Japan on July 26 to participate in the exercise, which was a key step in the ongoing efforts of these two “special partners” to strengthen and expand their defence and security cooperation.

The two French Rafales were welcomed with a traditional water cannon salute as they landed at Nyutabaru Air Base in southern Miyazaki prefecture, the base for Japanese F-15J fighters, in the footage published by the Japanese Air Force.

Two Rafale jets led the French contingent, which also included an A330 MRTT refuelling plane and an A400M tactical transport plane that provided backup.

In the video made available by the Japanese Air Force, a Kawasaki C-2, three JASDF F-15 and F-2 multirole fighters, and a French military fighter aircraft are all shown taking part in the aerial exercise.

The airspace surrounding the Kanto region and the ASDF’s Nyutabaru Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture was used for the aerial manoeuvres.

A significant part of the FASF’s Pegase 23 mission, which launched on June 25 and will last through August 3, is the joint exercise.

Approximately 20 French aircraft are participating in this deployment, which is taking place in at least 10 nations and territories, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia, in joint operations with 14 partner air forces.

Due to its unique geopolitical location, with seven of its 13 overseas departments, regions, and communities situated in the Indian Ocean or the South Pacific, Paris has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the Indo-Pacific area.

France has more than 6,350 soldiers stationed in the Indo-Pacific region, making it the only country in Europe to do so.

Although France has expressed concern over China’s escalating assertiveness and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s rapid modernization, it makes it clear that its regional strategy is not targeted at any particular nation and it vehemently rejects engaging in “bloc geopolitics” that might worsen regional tensions.