Pacific News Minute: U.S. “Valiant Shield” Exercises Begin Off Guam and the Northern Marianas

Sep 20, 2018

The USS Ronald Reagan steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five and the Republic of Korea Navy, October 2016.
Credit PO2 Nathan Burke / U.S. Navy

As the big Russian military exercise in its far east wraps up, the United States has started air and naval maneuvers off Guam and the Northern Marianas, and Japan conducted war games in the South China Sea.

While not on the same scale as Russia’s gigantic “Vostok” exercises, The U.S.-only “Valiant Shield” involves more than a dozen ships, including the USS Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier Strike Group, 160 aircraft and 15,000 personnel from all four military branches.

USNI News reports that the U.S. Marines version of the F-35 Joint Strike fighter is participating for the first time. More ships would have been involved, except the assault ship USS Wasp and several other vessels are involved in relief efforts following Typhoon Mangkhut.

On Monday, Japan announced that a submarine, two destroyers and the helicopter carrier Kaga conducted war games in the South China Sea over the weekend. The exercise itself is unusual – an unmistakable message to China, analysts said – and the participation of a submarine is unprecedented. Retired Vice Admiral Toshiyuki Ito, now a professor at Kanazawa Institute of Technology, noted that the exercises come as Japan expands economic ties with China.

USS Ronald Reagan patrols the Philippine Sea after departing Guam.
Credit Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr

“In the past, Japan regarded other countries as either a friend or an enemy,” he told the New York Times. “Japan has finally matured, shaking hands with its right hand while holding up a fist with its left.”

China sent about 3,500 troops to participate in the Russian military exercises, and, according to USNI News, it also sent an uninvited guest . . . a spy ship to gather military intelligence.