Philippines and Japan Conclude Concurrent Joint Exercises with the United States

Philippine, Republic of Korea, and U.S. Marines conduct amphibious operations during KAMANDAG 6
Philippine Marines conduct an amphibious landing during KAMANDAG 6, Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 7, 2022. KAMANDAG is an annual bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military designed to strengthen interoperability, capabilities, trust, and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ujian Gosun)

The last two-weeks saw the military forces of the Philippines and those of the Japanese Self Defence Forces conducted separate but concurrent joint military exercises in cooperation with units of the United States military. These reinforced the commitment of the countries to their mutual defence particularly with concerns over the regional uncertainly created by the Peoples Republic of China.

In the Philippines Kamandag, a Tagalog acronym for “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea”, involved over 2,550 US Marines and 530 Filipino Marines conducting a range of operations that included island-based exercises in amphibious landings, humanitarian assistance, and live fire exercises. The later conducted at a gunnery and bombing range in a desolate valley outside Capas a town north of Manila saw firing of both 155mm M777 Howitzers and the HIMARS multiple rocket systems. Naval warships and Marine air also participated in supporting the exercise objectives. Kamandag included attendance by military observers from both the JGSDF and the Republic of Korea further contributing to the scope of the events.

Over the same fourteen-day period U.S. Marines and Japanese Ground Self Defence Force units conducted joint training army on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. The exercises involved about 2,100 JGSDF and 1,400 US Marines. The operations included flight missions by six US MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which the JSDF is also acquiring. The bilateral drills, which represented the defence of remote-islands, also featured live-firing events. These included multiple rockets systems, as well as, artillery and ground manoeuvres. A Japanese Joint Staff statement stresses “these exercises reaffirm the cooperation of JGSDF and US Armed Forces demonstrating the strong will, close, and seamless cooperation in responding to any situation”.

In a statement U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron Commanding General of the Japan-based 3rd Marine Division, which supplied the US forces, explained, “the exercises were aimed at bolstering the defensive capabilities of the U.S. alliance with the Philippines and Japan, and ensuring that “we are prepared to rapidly respond to crisis throughout the Indo-Pacific.”

However, representatives of the militaries involved stressed that these regularly scheduled annual exercises are not directed against any specific country, but are designed to develop and refine the ability to operate together as necessary to respond to whatever crises that might arise.

Both military exercises that were held simultaneously concluded on Friday 14 October 2022. On 14 October the Navies of the Philippines, US, Royal Australian, French, Japan Maritime Self Defence Force and Royal Navy begin four days of interoperability exercises in the Sulu Sea.

by StephenW. Miller