The USS Green Bay, front, the USS Wasp, center, and the JS Shimokita sail in formation in the East China Sea, Monday, April 9, 2018.

The USS Green Bay, front, the USS Wasp, center, and the JS Shimokita sail in formation in the East China Sea, Monday, April 9, 2018. (Taylor King/U.S. Navy)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS Wasp has trained alongside a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel for the first time since arriving at its new homeport in Japan earlier this year.

“Navigational maneuvers” held Monday in the East China Sea involved the Wasp — whose strike group includes F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters and elements of the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit — sailing in formation with the amphibious transport dock JS Shimokita.

The brief exercise demonstrated both services’ “enduring commitment” to the “U.S.-Japan alliance and security of the region,” a Navy statement said. Chinese activity in the East China Sea has long been an issue for Japan. Tokyo protested to Beijing in January after a submarine, presumed to be Chinese, was detected near Okinawa and the disputed Senkaku Islands. Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama expressed “great concern” over the issue and urged China not to repeat the incursion.

Rear Adm. Tsutomu Shirane called Monday’s bilateral drill, which included sailors coordinating rendezvous points and using universal tactical signals, a valuable experience for the JMSDF.

“We welcome the deployment of USS Wasp in this region, and I hope we continue to work together with Wasp,” he said of the ship, which arrived at Sasebo Naval Base in January and will eventually replace the USS Bonhomme Richard as flagship of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet.

The Navy said some JMSDF sailors will remain embarked with the Wasp “to learn about how the U.S. military conducts amphibious training.”

Over the weekend, the JMSDF’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade was formally established near Sasebo at Camp Ainoura during a ceremony attended by senior U.S. military leaders, including Task Force 76 commander Rear Adm. Brad Cooper.

The event marked the first time since World War II that Japan has a marine unit “trained to counter threats against Japanese islands along the edge of its borders,” the Navy said.

“The establishment of the ARDB signifies a new era of JMSDF-[Japan Ground Self-Defense Force] unity in operating from the sea and the U.S. will continue to build combined capability alongside the Japan Self Defense Forces,” the service said. Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos

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Caitlin Doornbos covers the Pentagon for Stars and Stripes after covering the Navy’s 7th Fleet as Stripes’ Indo-Pacific correspondent at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Previously, she worked as a crime reporter in Lawrence, Kan., and Orlando, Fla., where she was part of the Orlando Sentinel team that placed as finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Caitlin has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas and master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from the University of Texas at El Paso.

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