The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will conduct a joint exercise with the Sri Lankan Navy in the Indian Ocean for four days through Sunday, Jiji Press reported.
With the drill, Japan aims to strengthen its cooperation with Sri Lanka, located near an important sea lane for the transportation of crude oil from the Middle East.
In addition, Japan apparently intends to send a warning to China, which is increasing its maritime presence in the region, sources familiar with the situation said.
In the exercise, Sri Lankan Navy officers will board the MSDF destroyer Kaga to share know-how on rescue operations and humanitarian assistance. They will also observe training by the MSDF.
“It’s rare for the MSDF to allow military officials of other countries to board any of its vessels during an exercise at sea,” a public relations official of the Defense Ministry’s Maritime Staff Office said.
Japan is promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy with the United States, India and Australia in a bid to ensure free and safe navigation, and regional stability.
On the exercise with Sri Lanka, an MSDF official said, “We don’t have a specific country in mind.” Still, the official said that the drill is part of the Indo-Pacific strategy.
Japan is believed to be aiming to deepen its relationship with Sri Lanka at a time when China is trying to build maritime bases in the Indian Ocean, pundits said.