Japanese Destroyer Escorts Australian Frigate For The First Time

The Japanese destroyer Inazuma escorts Australian frigate Warramunga during an exercise south of Shikoku. (Photo courtesy of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

TOKYO (GDC) — A Maritime Self-Defense Force ship escorted an Australian vessel during this week’s bilateral naval drill, Japan’s Defense Ministry said Friday, marking the first time Japanese forces protected warships other than U.S. vessels.

The escort took place during a joint exercise conducted Wednesday through Friday south of Shikoku, one of Japan’s four main islands. The Japanese destroyer Inazuma protected the frigate Warramunga in response to a request from the Australian side.

Tokyo looks to deepen security cooperation with Canberra as China enhances its military. Last year, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces were involved in a record 25 missions protecting U.S. military vessels and aircraft.

Such “asset protection” missions are made possible by security legislation enacted in 2015 allowing the SDF to protect weapons and military equipment belonging to other countries during noncombat situations, such as military exercises.

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Japan and Australia agreed to proceed with talks on asset protection missions during a defense meeting in October 2020. During this June’s “two-plus-two” meeting held by the diplomatic and defense chiefs of both nations, it was decided that Japan’s asset protection capability will apply to Australia.

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