Reagan Strike Group Starts Drills with Korean Navy; Russian, Chinese Ships Spotted off Alaska

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) began drills with the Republic of Korea Navy in the East Sea on Monday, the U.S. Navy announced. The Maritime Counter-Special Operations Exercise (MCSOFEX) in the East Sea with the ROKN, through Thursday, the service said. U.S. Navy units participating in the exercise are carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) with […]

A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook lands on the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), in the waters east of the Korean peninsula on Sept. 26, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) began drills with the Republic of Korea Navy in the East Sea on Monday, the U.S. Navy announced.

The Maritime Counter-Special Operations Exercise (MCSOFEX) in the East Sea with the ROKN, through Thursday, the service said. U.S. Navy units participating in the exercise are carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) Five, cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), destroyers USS Barry (DDG-52) and USS Benfold (DDG-65) and staff from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Five, according to the release. The Army’s 2nd Combat Air Brigade and U.S. Air Force’s 7th Air Force joined with units from U.S. Special Operations Command Korea for the exercises.

“Our combined ROK-U.S. naval force is demonstrating its strength and resolve by conducting this exercise together to build our combat readiness,” said Rear Adm. Michael Donnelly, commander, Task Force (CTF) 70/CSG 5, in the release.

The bilateral exercise includes live fire, surface warfare, anti-submarine and anti-air drills.

“This exercise will improve ROK-U.S. combined operational capabilities and bolstered interoperability,” said Rear Adm. Kwak, Kwang Sub, commander, ROK Navy Maritime Battle Group (MBG) 1, in the release. “Two navies will continue to maintaining combined naval defense posture based on iron-clad ROK-U.S. alliance.”

Russia, Chinese Warships Spotted near Alaska

A Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crewmember observing a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, September 19, 2022. Coast Guard Photo

On Monday, the U.S Coast Guard issued a release stating that the joint Russian Navy – People’s Liberation Army Navy Surface Action group was sighted sailing approximately 75 nautical miles north of Kiska Island, Alaska, on Sept. 19.

According to the release, USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756) was on a routine patrol that day when it encountered a PLAN cruiser with the pennant number 101, which corresponds to CNS Nanchang (101) though China considers the ship as a destroyer.

Kimball later identified two more Chinese naval vessels and four Russian naval vessels, including a Russian Navy destroyer, all in a single formation with Nanchang as a combined surface action group operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), according to the release.

As a result of the sighting, Kimball is now operating under Operation Frontier Sentinel, a Seventeenth Coast Guard District operation designed to meet presence with presence when strategic competitors operate in and around U.S. waters.

“The U.S. Coast Guard’s presence strengthens the international rules-based order and promotes the conduct of operations in a manner that follows international norms. While the surface action group was temporary in nature, and Kimball observed it disperse, the Kimball will continue to monitor activities in the U.S. EEZ to ensure the safety of U.S. vessels and international commerce in the area,” according to the release, which also added that a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules air crew provided support to the Kimball’s Operation Frontier Sentinel activities.

Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean also encountered Chinese naval vessels, including a surface action group transiting approximately 50 miles off the Aleutian Island chain, in September 2021.

“While the formation has operated in accordance with international rules and norms,” said Rear Adm. Nathan Moore, Seventeenth Coast Guard District commander in the release, “we will meet presence-with-presence to ensure there are no disruptions to U.S. interests in the maritime environment around Alaska.”

The Russian Navy – PLAN surface action group consists of Russian Navy destroyer RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543), corvettes RFS Sovershennyy (333), RFS Gromkiy (335) and RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339), and replenishment ship Pechanga, while the PLAN contingent consist of Nanchang, frigate CNS Yancheng (546) and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902).

The two navies have been working together to carry out a joint naval patrol in the Pacific Ocean, the Russian Defense Ministry announced Sept. 15.

On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that the group had held a number of drills, including search and rescue rehearsals and air defense exercises, as part of joint patrols in the Pacific Ocean.

The statement also said the group had been practicing maneuvers using various formations and establishing communication links between the vessels and that several joint and individual exercises were conducted to work out anti-submarine missions, search and rescue operations at sea and execute air defense tasks, with flights performed by antisubmarine and rescue ship-based helicopters.

The Russian and Chinese warships have sailed more than 3,000 nautical miles in the past 12 days and are continuing their patrols, according to the release.

PLAN ships have also been sighted transiting through Japanese straits, according to Japan Ministry of Defense releases.

On Monday, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defence issued two releases with the first release stating that at around 8 a.m. Friday, a PLAN destroyer, frigate and replenishment ship were sighted sailing southeast in an area 180km north of Miyako Island before they sailed southeast through the Miyako Strait ,which lies between Miyako Island and Okinawa. The PLAN ships were identified as destroyer CNS Huainan (123), frigate CNS Rizhao (598) and replenishment ship CNS Kekexilihu (968).

The three ships form the PLAN 42nd China Naval Escort Task Force, which left their homeport on Sept. 21 for the Gulf of Aden to conduct anti-piracy escort missions there. The task force is now in the South China Sea, according to a release from China’s Ministry of National Defense.

The JSO release stated that the PLAN ships were monitored by Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Inazuma (DD-105) and minesweeper JS Shishijima (MSC-691), a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya Air Field, Kyushu, and a P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa.

The second JSO release stated that at noon Friday, a PLAN Dongdiao class surveillance vessel, hull number 796, was sighted sailing east in an area 100 km southwest of Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, and subsequently sailed northeast through the Tsushima Strait in the Sea of Japan.

Minesweepers JS Toyoshima (MSC-685) and JS Ukushima (MSC-686) and fast attack craft JS Umitaka (PG-828) shadowed the PLAN ship.

The JSO issued another release Tuesday after a PLAN Dongdiao class surveillance vessel with the hull number 794 was sighted around 4 p.m. Monday sailing northwest in an area 140km east of Miyako Island. The ship then sailed northwest through the Miyako Strait and into the East China Sea.

Dongdiao 794 previously sailed southeast through the Miyako Strait on Aug. 28, and Toyoshima and a JMSDF P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 5 shadowed the PLAN ship.

Over in Yokosuka, destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) and LCS USS Oakland (LCS-24) arrived at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) on Monday for scheduled port visits.

Update to Congress on Military, Political Developments in North Korea

The following is the Sept. 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, North Korea: September 2022 Update. From the reprort For more than 30 years, 16 Congresses and 6 presidential administrations have struggled with North Korea’s (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, or DPRK) advancing nuclear weapons and missile programs, human rights abuses, sponsorship […]

The following is the Sept. 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, North Korea: September 2022 Update.

From the reprort

For more than 30 years, 16 Congresses and 6 presidential administrations have struggled with North Korea’s (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, or DPRK) advancing nuclear weapons and missile programs, human rights abuses, sponsorship of cyber-attacks and cyber-crime, and threats to U.S. regional allies. As Members of Congress seek to shape and oversee U.S. policy toward North Korea, they may wish to consider a number of developments that have occurred since nuclear talks collapsed in 2019.

The Biden Administration says it is pursuing a “calibrated, practical approach” that “is open to and will explore diplomacy with North Korea” to eventually achieve the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Administration appears to envision offering partial sanctions relief in exchange for partial steps toward denuclearization. Its approach appears to be in alignment with that of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who assumed office in May 2022 and has hardened Seoul’s stance toward the DPRK. Since Yoon’s inauguration, Washington and Seoul have shifted their emphasis from diplomacy to deterrence, for instance by expanding the size and scope of bilateral military exercises. They also have offered Pyongyang unconditional humanitarian assistance, and Yoon has pledged to provide large-scale economic assistance if North Korea “embarks on a genuine and substantive process for denuclearization.”

Pyongyang largely has ignored attempts by the Biden and Yoon Administrations, and their predecessors, to resume dialogue and has rejected offers of humanitarian assistance, including COVID-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, North Korea reportedly has continued to produce fissile material for weapons. It also has continued to test missiles of various ranges and capabilities, including more than 30 ballistic missiles since the start of 2022, in violation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. The tests appear to have advanced the reliability and precision of its missile forces, and improved its ability to defeat regional missile defense systems. In March 2022, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time since 2017. Many observers see evidence that North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear weapons test. It has not tested a nuclear device since 2017.

The United States has responded to North Korea’s missile tests by introducing new unilateral sanctions designations, dispatching U.S. military assets to Northeast Asia, and working with the Yoon Administration to expand U.S.-ROK deterrent activities and to reinvigorate trilateral cooperation with Japan. In June 2022, the Senate passed the Otto Warmbier Countering North Korean Censorship and Surveillance Act of 2021 (S. 2129) that, among other steps, would require the State and Treasury Departments to report annually to Congress on U.S. government sanctions-related activities and enforcement.

North Korea has undertaken these activities despite signs that its economy has contracted significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since early 2020, the North Korean government has largely closed the country’s borders and imposed restrictions on economic activities. Between January 2020 and January 2022, North Korea’s official trade, which already had been reduced to a trickle due to sanctions, fell by nearly 90%. The difficulty of importing food and agricultural products during the border shutdown, combined with poor weather, appears to have exacerbated North Korea’s chronic food shortages. The U.N. estimates that over 10 million North Koreans, roughly 40% of the population, are undernourished. However, there are few outward signs that North Korea’s economic difficulties are threatening the regime’s stability or are compelling North Korea to pursue engagement with the United States.

Download the document here.

Carrier Ronald Reagan Makes Rare South Korean Port Call, Russian Ships Active Near Japan

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) docked into the Republic of Korea on Friday, the Navy announced,  the first port call to the country in nearly four years. Reagan pulled in with cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) and destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52), arrived in Busan. //did Barry arrive in Busan or did Reagan, Barry and Chancellorsville pull in?// Destroyer USS […]

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) pulls into port in Busan, Republic of Korea, Sept. 23, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) docked into the Republic of Korea on Friday, the Navy announced,  the first port call to the country in nearly four years.

Reagan pulled in with cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) and destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52), arrived in Busan. //did Barry arrive in Busan or did Reagan, Barry and Chancellorsville pull in?// Destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) pulled in at Chinhae to the east.

“The Ronald Reagan Strike Group’s visit is of strategic importance to the U.S. and Republic of Korea relationship and is a clear and unambiguous demonstration of U.S. commitment to the Alliance,” Rear Adm. Buzz Donnelly the strike group’s commander said in the statement. “We’re excited to return to Busan. Our presence and commitments to the Republic of Korea and the Indo-Pacific region are not new, and visits like this are part of our routine operations in the region that have helped maintain peace for more than 70 years.”

The Reagan CSG will drill with the Republic of Korea Navy next month, following the port visit, which combines both preparations and planning for the drill along with engagement activities and crew recreation. Prior to arrival in Korea, the Reagan strike group conducted drills with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Amagiri (DD-154)

In addition to Reagan, guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is operating in the Western Pacific.

Zumwalt departed Guam on Monday after a scheduled port call, according to the U.S. Navy. The visit marks the farthest the destroyer ever been from its home port of Naval Base San Diego, Calif.

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is currently in the Philippines Sea after drilling with USS America (LHA-6) on Sept. 17 while both ships were sailing in the East China Sea.

Forward deployed amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18), part of the Tripoli Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is in the Sea of Japan with embarked elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD-47) is operating around Japan having wrapped up an interoperability and beach landing exercise on Monday with JMSDF LST JS Kunisaki (LST-4003) at Numazu marine exercise area in Shizuoka Prefecture, Honshu. The exercise began on Sept. 16.

Operating around the East China Sea now is the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) as part of Operation Neon – Canada’s contribution to a coordinated multinational effort to support United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea. Canada’s participation includes surveillance and monitoring any ships that break the U.N. sanctions. Vancouver has been conducting the mission since mid-September and it is the sixth such deployment by the RCN since 2018. On Tuesday, Vancouver conducted a Taiwan Straits transit with USS Higgins (DDG-76).

Also this week, four Russian Navy Tarantul class corvettes were sighted sailing west through La Pérouse Strait and into the East China Sea, the Japanese Ministry of Defense said on Sept. 16.

The corvettes were identified as RFS R-14 (924), RFS R-18 (937), RFS R-11 (940) and RFS Ivanovets (954). The Russian corvettes were monitored by JMSDF fast attack craft JS Kumataka (PG-827) and a P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 2 station at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu.

Ivanovets is part of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and has been sighted as part of that fleet since July this year, it is unclear if the ship had been reassigned to the Pacific Fleet or if one of the other Tarantul-class corvettes in the Russian Pacific Fleet, which operates a total of 10 of the class, has been renumbered. Since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been painting over the hull numbers of its ships to obscure their identities.

La Pérouse Strait is an international waterway that divides the Russian island of Sakhalin and Japan’s island of Hokkaido. The strait is routinely transited by Russian Pacific Fleet ships moving between the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk as both seas form part of the fleet operational areas. Japan monitors closely the activities of Russian and Chinese naval vessels sailing nearby.

On Wednesday, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) 42nd China Naval Escort Task Force comprising of destroyer CNS Huainan (123), frigate CNS Rizhao (598) and replenishment ship CNS Kekexilihu (968) left their homebase of Qingdao to relieve the 41st China Naval Escort Task Force, which includes destroyer CNS Suzhou (132), frigate CNS Nantong (533) and replenishment ship CNS Chaohu (890), that deployed in May this year. The PLAN has been dispatching ships to perform escort duties in the Gulf of Aden since 2008.

In Australia, a total of 16 ships, one submarine, 34 aircraft and 3000 personnel from 22 countries are carrying out the sea phase of the Royal Australian Navy led Exercise Kakadu 2022 in the waters and airspace of the Northern Australian Exercise area. The exercise is being held from Sept. 12-24 and encompassed both warfare and maritime enforcement training. Countries involved in the exercise are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. and Vanuatu.

The Royal Australian Navy ships taking part in the exercise are destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39), frigate HMAS Perth (FFH157), replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304) and patrol boat HMAS Broome (ACPB90), along with an RAN submarine. Fiji, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States have each sent a ship for the exercise: Republic of Fiji Naval Forces patrol craft RFNS Savenaca (401), French Navy frigate FNS Vendémiaire (F734), Indian Navy frigate INS Satpura (F48), Indonesian Navy frigate KRI Raden Eddy Martadinata (331), JMSDF destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), Royal Malaysian Navy frigate KD Lekiu (FFGH30), Republic of Singapore Navy frigate RSS Steadfast (70), Royal Thai Navy frigate HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej (FFG 471) and U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship USS Charleston (LCS-18).

Along with Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8 Poseidon MPAs and Hawk fighter trainers, an Indian Navy P-8I Poseidon MPA and s U.S Navy P-8 Poseidon MPA is also taking part in the exercise while the German Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) contingents, which were in Australia for the RAAF Pitch Black exercise held from Aug.19 through Sept. 8 have stayed on to participate in Kakadu. The German Air Force contingent comprises of six Eurofighter Typhoons, three A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTT), and an A400M transport while the RSAF contingent comprises of 8 F-15SG and 8 F-16D fighters, a Gulfstream 550 airborne early warning aircraft and a A330 MRTT.

Russian Navy Moving Kilo Attack Boats to Safety from Ukraine Strike Risk, Says U.K. MoD

Russia has “almost certainly” moved its Black Sea Fleet Kilo-class submarines from Sevastopol, Crimea, to the Novorossiysk port in Krasnodar Krai, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense announced in a Tuesday intelligence report. Russia could have up to four of the diesel-electric attack boats in the Black Sea. All of the Kilo-class are capable of […]

Improved Kilo-class (Varshavyanka-class) attack submarine. RIA Novosti Photo

Russia has “almost certainly” moved its Black Sea Fleet Kilo-class submarines from Sevastopol, Crimea, to the Novorossiysk port in Krasnodar Krai, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense announced in a Tuesday intelligence report.

Russia could have up to four of the diesel-electric attack boats in the Black Sea.
All of the Kilo-class are capable of launching Kalibr NK cruise missiles. Sea-launched Kalibirs have been used in attacks on Ukraine, a senior military official said during a Monday briefing.

While the United States has seen reports, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder during his Tuesday press briefing was not able to confirm that Russia is moving their submarines.

The submarine move is likely due to increased Ukrainian long-range strike capabilities that would leave the attack boats at risk at the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol, according to British intelligence assessment. The Russian Navy fleet headquarters and main naval aviation airfield at Sevastapol have been attacked in the past two months, the assessment reads.

“The command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet as almost certainly relocated its Kilo-class submarines from their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai, southern Russia,” reads the assessment.
“Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s Crimea basing was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014. Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continual aggression in Ukraine.”

Prior to the move, it was not unusual for Russia to have three of its Kilo-class submarines at the Sevastapol base and one at sea, according to a report in Naval News.

The submarines are still able to launch Kalibr-cruise missiles at Ukraine from the vicinity of Novorossiysk, according to Naval News. The Kalibirs, that mimic the capabilities of the U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, have an estimated range of 1,000 nautical miles.

The Russian Navy has taken a largely background role in the Ukrainian invasion since Ukraine sank RTS Moskva (121), the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet.

Ukrainians used Neptune missiles to hit Moskva, causing it to catch on fire in April. It sank while the Russian Navy was towing it, USNI News previously reported.

USS Higgins Joins Canadian Warship to Transit Taiwan Strait

USS Higgins (DDG-76) conducted a Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday, the Navy announced. Higgins performed the transit in cooperation with Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH-331), according to a Tuesday Navy news release. The strait transit was done outside of any territorial waters, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a Tuesday press […]

USS Higgins conducted a Taiwan Strait transit on Sept. 20. US Navy Photo

USS Higgins (DDG-76) conducted a Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday, the Navy announced.

Higgins performed the transit in cooperation with Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH-331), according to a Tuesday Navy news release.

The strait transit was done outside of any territorial waters, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a Tuesday press briefing.

Higgins and Vancouver conducted a routine transit “in accordance with international law,” according to the Navy release.

“Higgins’ and Vancouver’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to the release. “Cooperation like this represents the centerpiece of our approach to a secure and prosperous region.”

This is the second Taiwan Strait transit since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited the island. The last transit took place on Aug. 29, when USS Antietam (CG-54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) sailed through the strait.

China criticized the strait transit at the time and called the two Ticonderoga-class cruisers old. China has not yet commented on Higgins‘ transit.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning warned the U.S. against overt support for Taiwan after President Joe Biden said the U.S. would defend Taiwan.

“China deplores and firmly opposes the remarks made by the US president and has made stern representations with the US,” Mao said, according to an article in state-run People’s Daily.

Report to Congress on Military, Intelligence Issues on Russian Invasion of Ukraine

The following is the Sept. 14, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Russia’s War in Ukraine: Military and Intelligence Aspects. From the report Russia’s renewed invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February 2022 marked the start of Europe’s deadliest armed conflict in decades. After a steady buildup of military forces along Ukraine’s borders since 2021, Russia invaded […]

The following is the Sept. 14, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Russia’s War in Ukraine: Military and Intelligence Aspects.

From the report

Russia’s renewed invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February 2022 marked the start of Europe’s deadliest armed conflict in decades. After a steady buildup of military forces along Ukraine’s borders since 2021, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with Russian ground forces attacking from multiple directions.

Initially, Russian forces made gains along all lines of advance. However, Russian forces ran into effective and likely unexpected levels of Ukrainian resistance from the invasion’s outset. In addition, many analysts and officials assess that during this first stage of the war the Russian military performed poorly overall and was hindered by specific tactical choices, poor logistics, ineffective communications, and command-and-control issues. The Ukrainian military, while at a quantitative and qualitative disadvantage in personnel, equipment, and resources, has proven more resilient and adaptive than Russia expected.

Over the course of the first several weeks of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military had to adjust to various setbacks and other developments on the ground. With many of its advances stalled, in late March 2022, Russian defense officials announced that Russian military operations would focus on eastern Ukraine, including the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk (collectively known as the Donbas, where Russian-led separatists have been fighting since 2014) and that Russia would withdraw its forces around Kyiv and Chernihiv in the north.

Since refocusing on the Donbas region of Ukraine, Russia has gained territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. President Putin recalibrated his stated war aims to emphasize helping “the people in the Donbas, who feel their unbreakable bond with Russia.” It is unclear whether Russia has the necessary forces to achieve its recalibrated objectives, considering losses of personnel and equipment. However, short-term strategies to increase recruitment are unlikely to resolve personnel challenges and likely will undermine Russian capability going forward.

As Russia suffers from a lack of personnel and supply challenges, momentum may be shifting to Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) counterattacks. The UAF continues to train and deploy personnel to exploit Russian weaknesses, including the use of advanced Western systems to target key Russian logistics, infrastructure, and command centers. How the UAF decides to deploy limited resources and personnel likely will play a crucial role in the conflict’s evolution.

After unprecedented Ukrainian success retaking territory in Ukraine’s northeastern region of Kharkiv in September 2022, many observers believe momentum has swung in Ukraine’s favor for the immediate future. The UAF has demonstrated an ability to deploy forces effectively to conduct offensive operations, and the Russian military continues to suffer from endemic and structural failings. Recent Russian losses in personnel, equipment, and morale likely will limit its operational capability for the immediate future.

Congress is poised to continue to track these developments closely, especially as it considers U.S. and international efforts to support Ukraine militarily and respond to events on the ground.

Download the document here.

U.S. Carrier Reagan to Visit Busan, Drill with South Korean Navy as Tensions with North Korea Increase

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group will arrive in South Korea on Friday in preparation for large-scale joint naval exercises with Seoul amid concerns mount over North Korea’s likely resumption of nuclear weapons testing, according to local reports. “By conducting combined drills, the navies of the two countries plan to strengthen their military readiness and […]

Cmdr. Nick Cunningham, commanding officer of the ‘Saberhawks’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 flies over USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in an MH-60R Sea Hawk during a change of command ceremony in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group will arrive in South Korea on Friday in preparation for large-scale joint naval exercises with Seoul amid concerns mount over North Korea’s likely resumption of nuclear weapons testing, according to local reports.

“By conducting combined drills, the navies of the two countries plan to strengthen their military readiness and demonstrate the firm resolve of the South Korea-U.S. alliance for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the Republic of Korea Navy said in a statement.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and other American vessels will make a port stop in Busan in southeastern Korea, American officials confirmed to USNI News on Monday.

The joint naval exercise next month will be the largest in five years and comes a few weeks after the nations’ ground and air forces concluded their most extensive Ulchi Freedom Shield exercise across the Korean Peninsula. The military drills are the most exetnsive since 2017, when tensions with Pyongyang over nuclear weapons testing were high as Washington dispatched three carrier strike groups to the waters off the peninsula.

At the Pentagon on Friday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks met with Republic of Korea Vice Minister of National Defense Shin Beomchul to reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, according to a DoD news release. The meeting came as the administration changed in Seoul, with new priorities for defense spending, relations with North Korea and the security on the peninsula.

This increased show of allied military strength and cooperation comes in the wake of North Korea’s parliament this month authorizing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons to defend the regime if it feels its survival threatened.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un followed the parliamentary vote up with a speech declaring Pyongyang would never give up its nuclear weapons. He ruled out any negotiations with Washington and Seoul over denuclearization of the peninsula.

Earlier this year, Pyongyang test fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States, pulling itself further away from steps it took to stop nuclear weapons testing and long-range missile testing following a 2018 summit meeting between Kim and former President Donald Trump in Singapore. In return, Trump scaled back or paused major joint exercises like Ulchi Freedom Shield.

Pyongyang’s last nuclear weapons test took place in 2017.

The joint U.S.-ROK naval exercises closely followed the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise, in which more than 20 other nations drills near Hawaii and California earlier this summer. In addition to ships, Seoul sent fixed winged aircraft to participate.

What was different about this year’s Ulchi Freedom Shield was not only its scale over 11 days, but also having Korean Gen. Ahn Byung-Seek, deputy commander the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, lead the exercise. This was part of the allies’ long-range plan to transition wartime operational control from the United States to Korea.

Seoul also plans to invest in building a 30,000-ton light aircraft carrier. In July, USNI News reported that the new administration is considering buying 20 new F-35A Block 4 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters for its air force, rather than buying the carrier variant.

If the buy goes through, starting in 2023 and ending in 2028, Seoul will have 60 F-35s in its air force’s inventory.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Sept. 19, 2022

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Sept. 19, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship. Ships Underway Total Battle […]

USNI News Graphic

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Sept. 19, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
299*
(USS 241, USNS 58)
*as of Sept. 14, 2022
106
(USS 70, USNS 36)
 71
(49 Deployed, 22 Local)

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
0 1 6 11 28 58 104

In the Philippine Sea

Sailors raise a barricade during a flight deck drill the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), in the Pacific Ocean, on Sept. 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is underway in the Philippine Sea after departing its homeport in Yokosuka, Japan, on Sept. 12. The Reagan Carrier Strike Group returned from a three-month patrol on Aug. 19 and was expected to begin its annual maintenance period.

Ronald Reagan is quickly back at sea thanks to the efforts of the ship’s sailors and the outstanding work from maintenance teams ashore,” the carrier’s skipper, Capt. Fred Goldhammer, said in a Sept. 12 statement. “Our completion of scheduled maintenance ensures we remain ready and agile to respond at a moment’s notice.”

Reagan is set to operate off South Korea and plans to make a port call in Busan this week following increasing tensions with North Korea.

“The carrier’s arrival comes after North Korea recently passed a new law designed to authorize the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in certain conditions, in a move that apparently shows its increasingly aggressive nuclear doctrine,” reported The Associated Press on Monday.

Aircraft carrier

A sailor assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, attached to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 70, conducts a fast rope training exercise in the hangar bay of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Carrier Air Wing 5

An E-2D Hawkeye, attached to the ‘Tigertails’ of Airborne Early Warning System (VAW) 125, lands on the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, is embarked aboard Ronald Reagan and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Royal Maces” of VFA-27 – Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) – from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
  • The “Diamondbacks” of VFA-102 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Eagles” of VFA-115 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Dambusters” of VFA-195 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Shadowhawks” of VAQ-141 – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Tiger Tails” of VAW-125 – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Providers” of VRC-30 – Detachment 5 – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Golden Falcons” of HSC-12 – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.
  • The “Saberhawks” of HSM-77 – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Cruisers

Sailors stand watch in the central control station aboard Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) during routine operations in the Philippine Sea on Sept. 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

  • USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Destroyer Squadron 15

Sailors assigned to Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) stand in formation during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony on the ship’s flight deck while operating in the Philippine Sea, Sept. 11, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 15 is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and is embarked on the carrier. Destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 15 are also assigned to the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

  • USS Benfold (DDG-65), homeported in Yokosuka.
  • USS Barry (DDG-52), homeported in Yokosuka.

Marine 1st Lt. Charles Torres, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), stands for the audience during a talent show aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on Sept. 18, 2022. US Navy Photo

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) and embarked elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are underway in the Philippine Sea, as is amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6).

Tripoli departed Naval Station San Diego, Calif., for an independent deployment to the Western Pacific on May 2.

Prior to embarking the 31st MEUTripoli had been operating under the “lightning carrier” concept, in which it had more than a dozen F-35Bs aboard during its Pacific deployment. The ship is underway with Marine MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallions for the remainder of its Indo-Pacific deployment.

Tripoli took part in the June Valiant Shield exercise, but has transitioned to an amphibious ready force with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) embarked. Since it began its deployment in May, Tripoli has also had a detachment of MH-60S Knighthawks embarked from the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23.

In the Ionian Sea

An E-2D Hawkeye, attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 lands aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), Sep. 11, 2022. US Navy Photo

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) remains on station in the Ionian Sea. The CSG left Norfolk, Va., on Aug. 10 and took over duties in U.S. 6th Fleet from the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group on Aug 28.

Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG 2) is also operating in the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Scott Sciretta, who assumed command of the formation on July 1, is embarked aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG-98) as SNMG 2’s flagship. SNMG-2 ships are participating in NATO Exercise Dynamic Mariner through Sept. 22. Participating assets include five submarines, 50 surface vessels and five aircraft from 12 nations.

Carrier Strike Group 10

Carrier

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), homeported in Norfolk, Va.

Carrier Air Wing 1

Naval Air Crewman (helicopter) 2nd Class Jake Rambow flies in an MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5, during a replenishment-at-sea for the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on Sep. 11, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, based on Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., is embarked on Bush and includes:

  • The “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
  • The “Jolly Rogers” of VFA-103 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Knighthawks” of VFA-136 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Patriots” of VAQ-140 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Bluetails” of VAW-121 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
  • The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Nightdippers” of HSC-5 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Grandmasters” of HSM-46 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

Cruiser

Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Leila Jimenez, assigned to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), stands watch in sonar control during an underwater warfare exercise, Sept. 16, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Va..

Destroyer Squadron 26

Ens. Timothy Lincoln, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG-99), uses a range finder as Farragut pulls alongside the fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE-8) for a replenishment-at-sea, Sep. 13, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 26 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier. The following ships deployed with the strike group.

  • USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
  • USS Truxtun (DDG-103), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Farragut (DDG-99), homeported at Naval Station Mayport.
  • USS Nitze (DDG-94), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

In Poland

Marine Corps vehicles assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) line up for an agricultural washdown outside the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24) during a scheduled port visit to Klaipeda, Lithuania, Sept. 15, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) have been operating in the Baltic Sea. The ARG includes USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44). Kearsarge and Gunston Hall arrived in Gdynia and Gdansk, respectively, on Sept. 14.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is based in North Carolina and includes the command element; the aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron, 263 (Reinforced); the ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 2/6; and the logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion 26.

The Kearsarge ARG is commanded by Amphibious Squadron Six. Other Navy units in the ARG include Fleet Surgical Team 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, Naval Beach Group 2 and Beach Master Unit 2.

In the Western Atlantic

Distinguished visitors observe flight operations aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), Sept. 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is underway in the Virginia Capes Operating Areas. USS Bataan (LHD-5) was underway off the East Coast and returned to port on Sept. 15.

In the Eastern Pacific

Marine F-35B Lighting II pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, land aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) on Sept. 4, 2022. US Marine Corps

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is underway in the Southern California Operating Areas. USS Makin Island (LHD-8), flagship of Amphibious Squadron Seven, along with the 13th MEU, is currently underway conducting integrated training to prepare for an upcoming deployment. The Makin Island ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship Makin Island and amphibious transport docks USS Anchorage (LPD-23) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26).

In addition to these major formations, not shown are others serving in submarines, individual surface ships, aircraft squadrons, SEALs, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, Seabees, Coast Guard cutters, EOD Mobile Units and more serving throughout the globe.

Japan, Canada Wrap Western Pacific Drills with U.S., USS Tripoli Underway in South China Sea

Japan, Canada and the United States wrapped up Noble Raven 22 this week, an exercise that took place in the waters from Guam to the South China Sea, according to a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force news release. The exercise, which included tactical training, began on Aug. 30 and featured JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183) […]

Noble Raven – JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110), RCN frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) and replenishment ship USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) conduct a joint sail during exercise Noble Raven.

Japan, Canada and the United States wrapped up Noble Raven 22 this week, an exercise that took place in the waters from Guam to the South China Sea, according to a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force news release.

The exercise, which included tactical training, began on Aug. 30 and featured JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110), Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH331), and U.S. Navy destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) and replenishment ships USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204).

Izumo and Takanami form the first surface unit of the JMSDF’s Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD22), a a four-month deployment throughout the Indo-Pacific region from June 13 to Oct. 28.
“Through increased practical exercise, we improved tactical capabilities and interoperability between the JMSDF, the U.S. Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy, and we promoted cooperative relationship of Japan-U.S.-Canadian naval forces in order to realize a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. Toshiyuki Hirata, the commander of the first surface unit, said in the news release.

Vancouver together with sister ship HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) are on a deployment to the region following their participation in the Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise, which ended on Aug. 4. Winnipeg is now conducting Operation Projection, in which the Canadian Armed Forces conduct port visits, training, exercises and engagements with foreign navies and other international security partners in the region. Winnipeg is currently in Singapore, having docked there on Tuesday for a week-long port call and maintenance. Meanwhile, Vancouver is conducting both Operation Projection and Operation Neon – Canada’s contribution to a coordinated multinational effort to support United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea. Canada’s participation includes surveillance and monitoring any ships that break the U.N. sanctions.

In other developments, amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is now back operating in the South China Sea, according to U.S. Defense Department imagery. Tripoli is scheduled to take part in an amphibious exercise in Japan with the JMSDF from Sept. 16-19, according to a Thursday news release from the JMSDF. The JMSDF and U.S. Navy will conduct a bilateral exercise in the waters around Japan and at the Numazu Beach training area, Honshu, the release said. The exercise participants will include Tripoli, landing ship dock USS Rushmore (LSD-47) and landing ship tank JS Osumi (LST-4001). The drills will involve both a beaching exercise and a search and rescue exercise.

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) launches from amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) in the South China Sea on Sept. 5, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

On Friday, the Joint Staff Office of Japan’s Ministry of Defense issued a news release detailing the sighting of a Russian destroyer in the Sea of Japan on Thursday at 11 a.m. local time. The hull number and image provided corresponds to destroyer RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543). The destroyer then sailed east through La Pérouse Strait on Friday, according to the release, which said JMSDF fast attack craft JS Kumataka (PG-827) and JMSDF P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 2 stationed at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu shadowed the Russian ship.

Meanwhile, Littoral Combat Ships USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Oakland (LCS-24) have been in the Oceania region throughout August with embarked U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team detachments, according to a U.S. Pacific Fleet news release. The ships and detachments are performing “maritime law enforcement operations in support of U.S. and Pacific Island nations fisheries laws.”

The deployments are part of the Oceania Maritime Support Initiative (OMSI), an effort led by the U.S. Secretary of Defense to better maritime security in the region.

“The joint Navy and Coast Guard OMSI mission capitalizes on the agility and mission adaptability LCS was designed for,” Cmdr. Derek Jaskowiak, the commanding officer of Oakland, said in the release. “It is our privilege to support our partner nations through presence in Oceania and to ensure continued security, stability, and prosperity throughout the region”.

Oakland finished its OMSI patrol in late August and Jackson will remain on station for the rest of this month. Jackson has been deployed in the Indo-Pacific region since July 2021, while Oakland only recently deployed this August, replacing USS Tulsa (LCS-16). Tulsa returned to San Diego on July 30. The third LCS in the Indo-Pacific, USS Charleston (LCS-18) – which arrived in the region in May last year – was in Singapore on Sept. 2 and hosted the change of command ceremony for Destroyer Squadron 7 (DESRON7).

The U.S. Navy this week announced that a destroyer and a submarine have recently returned home from deployments to the Indo-Pacific. On Tuesday, the service announced the return of destroyer USS Momsen (DDG-92) to its homeport of Naval Station Everett Washington following a seven-month deployment to U.S. 3rd, 5th, and 7th Fleets.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92), assigned to Carrier Strike Group Three, arrives in Naval Station Everett, Washington, Sept. 6, following a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 3rd, 5th and 7th Fleets in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. U.S. Navy Photo

Momsen conducted independent operations in and around the South China Sea, participating in cooperative deployments strengthening relationships with partnering allies. These efforts included a bi-lateral exercises focused on increasing interoperability with the Indian Navy’s guided-missile frigate INS Trishul (F 43),” PACFLEET said in the release.

While operating in 5th Fleet, Momsen took part in Iron Defender 2022, an exercise that takes place each year between the United Arab Emirates and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

“While operating in support of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 counter-narcotics operations, Momsen worked in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, seizing 640 kilograms of methamphetamine worth $39 million from a fishing vessel while patrolling international waters in the Gulf of Oman,” the release reads.

On Thursday, the Navy announced that submarine USS Scranton (SSN-756) returned to Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego on Wednesday following a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

“Our time on deployment proved the submarine force is the most flexible deterrent available to our strategic planners against near peer competitors,” Cmdr. Michael McGuire, Scranton’s commanding officer, said in the news release, “Scranton benefited greatly from the adaptive planning based on the dynamic operations in 7th Fleet. I can say without a doubt that the officers, chiefs and ship’s crew are better prepared to continue to defend our great nation.”

Scranton traveled about 50,000 nautical miles while out on the deployment and stopped in Yokosuka, Okinawa and Guam, according to the release.

Okinawa Key to Japan’s Defense Against China, North Korea, Says Expert

Winning the hearts and minds of Okinawans is critical to strengthening Japan’s own defenses against China, Russia and North Korea, one of Japan’s leading security experts said Thursday. Support from Okinawans is also key to smoothing over difficulties in Tokyo’s military alliance with Washington, said Kunihiko Miyake, the research director at the Canon Institute for […]

U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, load CH-53E Super Stallions with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing during Castaway 21.1 on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, March 16, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

Winning the hearts and minds of Okinawans is critical to strengthening Japan’s own defenses against China, Russia and North Korea, one of Japan’s leading security experts said Thursday.

Support from Okinawans is also key to smoothing over difficulties in Tokyo’s military alliance with Washington, said Kunihiko Miyake, the research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies.

Speaking at a Hudson Institute online forum, Miyake said China’s missile launches that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone should be viewed as “another black ship” for Tokyo. He was referring to the unexpected arrival of an American flotilla commanded by Matthew C. Perry in 1853 that within a year opened Japan to a trade agreement with the United States. China launched the missiles last month to show its anger over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan.

Now with Washington and Tokyo voicing support for Taiwan, the Status of Forces Agreement between the two nations has taken on new significance. It “has been the most difficult issue” to resolve over the years, Miyake said. One example of that difficulty is the seven years-long controversy surrounding the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The American military presence on 31 installations located on Okinawa remains a concern among Okinawans as tensions with China has risen.

What makes Okinawa so strategically important is geography, Miyake said. The threat from China to Japan comes from the sea and the south. Okinawa is about 500 miles north of Taiwan. About 70 percent of the U.S. military presence in Japan is on Okinawa.

In a serious review of the agreement, he suggested “increasing joint use of bases” in Okinawa. The U.S. forces assigned to Okinawa “would be regarded as guests” of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. He added that 70 to 80 percent of the miliary bases on the island are under American control.

“It’s a headache for Okinawans,” he said.

Miyake argued this would be one step necessary “to make ourselves more ready for a contingency.”

Looking at Tokyo’s defense spending, Miyake said the government has “to raise the Japanese public’s awareness” of the need to increase defense spending from 1.2 percent of gross domestic product. He noted the NATO standard for its members is to reach 2 percent of GDP and allocate that percentage to security.

The public also needs to understand the reasoning for increased defense spending that is likely to emerge in three important national security-related strategy documents due out by the end of the year.

“It will be very difficult” to move all these proposals through the Japanese Diet, he said.

In earlier remarks, Miyake said, “we cannot defend ourselves” without an ally, like the United States. But Japan needs to help secure itself as well through security spending and strategy.
“Even if we have an alliance, if you don’t have a defense, allies won’t help you,” making it imperative that the Japanese public see what the current close military relationship between Moscow and Beijing means in terms of their own security. Less than a week ago, the Chinese and Russian navies held joint live-fire drills around Japan as part of a larger military exercise.

If nothing is done, Miyake added, “we won’t have enough bullets; we don’t have enough missiles” in the nation’s arsenal for a prolonged conflict. He also noted shortfalls in ships for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and also funds to re-align Japan’s ground forces so they’re more like the U.S. Marine Corps.

“In my neighborhood, we have 2.5 threats” that need to be addressed, Miyake said, referring to China, Russia and North Korea. Tokyo “could do more with the Quad,” the informal security and economic arrangement between Japan, the U.S., Australia and India. He also cited the need for closer coordination with Seoul and Washington in dealing with Pyongyang and Beijing.

Miyake, who has diplomatic experience in the Middle East, said Tokyo’s future security can’t be solely focused on the Indo-Pacific. Japan’s economy is dependent on sea lines of communication into the Middle East for energy and trade with Europe.

“Did the 5th Fleet leave the Gulf? Did the [U.S.] Air Force leave the Gulf?” after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Miyake asked rhetorically, referring to the Middle East-based U.S. 5th Fleet. “No,” he added. “Without them we wouldn’t have the sea lines of communication.”

He said a strong NATO stabilizes European security and reminds Russian President Valdimir Putin that “a dictator’s mistakes are much more difficult to amend,” like his invasion of Ukraine. The Feb. 24 unprovoked attack not only drew the alliance closer together, but moved Sweden and Finland to apply for membership. He added that the NATO alliance also welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Youn Suk-yeol to the June meeting in Madrid.

“The Russians made a big mistake” not realizing that their largest security challenge was China, not NATO, Miyake argued.