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Japan Hosts Multilateral Naval Unity Display Amidst Tensions In East Asia

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Japan held its first international fleet review in seven years on Sunday with ships from 12 other countries, as North Korea launches a record number of missiles and China puts more pressure on Taiwan. 

The naval parade took place in Sagami Bay near Tokyo that featured 38 vessels, 18 from allies like South Korea, the United States, India, Australia, Thailand, and Britain. 

Determined to take on the adversaries, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that the country should be ready to respond. “We must [be] ready for those who violate rules and who would use force to trample on the peace and security of other nations. We will formulate a new national security strategy by year-end and drastically strengthen our defense capabilities,” he said. 

Kishida hosted luminaries on the Japanese helicopter carrier Izumo before he flew to USS Ronald Reagan, the US Navy aircraft carrier to meet US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and senior navy commanders.

After meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Emmanuel said, “What upsets China most is we have allies, they are expansive and extensive.”

Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party has vowed to raise Japan’s defense spending to about 2% of the country’s GDP within five years. South Korea’s move to participate in the event came after the relationship between the two neighboring countries strengthened after a period of a quarrel between them. The rift took place over compensation for wartime laborers and Korean women pushed for work in Japanese military brothels. 

After Seoul urged it not to fly Japan’s pennant, Japan refused to participate in South Korea’s fleet review in 2018. Seoul considers the Japanese flag a symbol of its wartime aggression. Tokyo turned down South Korea’s invitation to a scheduled 2019 review.

Now both the neighboring countries have come closer after North Korea leveled up its missile launches. Recently the nuclear-armed country launched a long-range missile that prompted a red alert in Japan forcing residents to take cover.

The invitation to participate in the assessment was denied by China, which has questioned Japan’s intentions for defense spending. Because of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was not invited. 

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