With China in mind, Japan to take part in military exercises with Indonesia and the US
Garuda Shield 2022 will be held on 1-14 August. This is Japan’s first participation. Singapore and Australia will also take part, plus eight observer countries, including India. Indonesia’s approach is to keep a balance between China and the United States.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – After a meeting with Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japanese self-defence forces will take part for the first time in the annual Garuda military exercises with Indonesian and United States forces.
Garuda Shield 2022 is scheduled for the first two weeks of August in three different regions of Indonesia, and will see the participation of Australian and Singapore forces as well.
Canada, France, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the United Kingdom are expected to be present as observer countries.
The US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) noted that this year's Garuda exercises will be the largest ever in scope and scale. They come at a time of strong tensions between the United States and China.
Members of the Biden administration have said recently that over the past six months China has intensified its “provocations” in the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with several countries in the region.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei challenge China’s expansionism to varying degrees, especially its occupation and militarisation of some islands and coral reefs in the area. All of these countries can count on the support of the United States, Australia and Japan.
Indonesia’s approach is more nuanced. Only its northmost archipelagoes are touched by China’s South China Sea claims, including the Natuna Islands.
China has no claim to any of the 272 islands, but demands access to their rich fishing grounds, which Indonesia firmly rejects.
Part of this year's Garuda exercises will take place on Batam Island, just over an hour's flight from the Natunas.
Meanwhile, President Widodo is on a multi-country foreign trip that has already taken him to China and that will end in South Korea.
This year, Indonesia holds the rotating G20 chair and Jokowi is involved on several diplomatic fronts.
China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner and during his visit to Beijing he pledged to boost bilateral cooperation during his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
By inviting Japan to take part in Garuda 2022 Indonesia is following its tested approach of balancing relations with China, the US and the latter’s allies.