More than 34,000 forces from the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, Japan and New Zealand took part in the war games, which began off Australia’s northeast coast began on Wednesday, according to presstv.ir.
The combined amphibious landing and practice assault, dubbed Talisman Sabre, also featured 30 ships and 200 aircraft and involved simulating scenarios including war at sea, attacking ships and land invasions, according to officials on board the exercise’s lead aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan.
The USS Ronald Reagan sent F-18 jet fighter jets that flew along with P-8 spy planes and combat helicopters to fulfill their training missions.
“We’re really honing our war fighting skills,” US Rear Adm. Karl Thomas, a strike group commander, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s about being ready. It’s about being interoperable. It’s about being able to execute tactics together and communicate and just be more lethal.”
A Chinese surveillance ship was reportedly spotted near Australia’s northeast coastline during the exercise but American and Australian officials said they were operating in the international waters and therefore had nothing to worry about.
“We operate around the Chinese quite frequently,” said Admiral Thomas, whose ship, the USS Ronald Reagan, is based in Japan. “It’s important that we’re able to work together in the same piece of the ocean, and I think we do that fairly professionally.”
Under Trump’s presidency, the US has pulled out some of its forces and equipment from the Middle East and deployed them in the Pacific, where the US military presence had been mostly limited to bases in countries neighboring the South China Sea.
The US and several of its allies, including Australia, have stepped up their military patrols and exercises in the South China Sea, over most of which China claims sovereignty.
The US Navy has been sending warships to the region in order to protect what it refers to as “freedom of navigation” operations in the disputed sea, which is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and others and acts as gateway to trillions of dollars in maritime trade each year.
“The world realizes how important the Indo-Pacific is,” Admiral Thomas told the WSJ. “All of our allies and partners working together sends a message not only from a trade perspective but also security, and this is what it is all about. We want an open and free region that folks can operate freely in international waters, within the rules of law that exist. Having a strong presence in an area like this helps us enforce that.”
China has warned the US to roll back its growing presence and stop its “provocative” patrols that near Chinese islands in the sea.