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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Keen Sword offers the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces an “opportunity to coordinate intensely” at the highest levels, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Forces Japan.

The large-scale exercise is taking place at installations on the mainland and Okinawa. U.S. participants include about 11,000 sailors, 105 soldiers, 650 airmen and 250 Marines.

In the past, Keen Sword consisted of separate field-training exercises independent from higher controlling authorities, Wright said. This time, Pacific Command in Hawaii and Japan’s Joint Staff are among agencies playing an active role.

“It’s much more realistic this year,” Wright said. “Any contingency in this region will require a very high level of coordination.”

Wright said Keen Sword is not conducted with a specific nation or threat in mind. But the U.S. and Japan do simulate capabilities of potential enemies without identifying any, he added.

“The value of an exercise like this is the building of professional relationships and friendships — and that value has been proven over the years,” he said.

Keen Sword dates to 1986. The two nations also hold Keen Edge, a bilateral command post exercise that uses computer-generated simulated emergencies.

This year’s is the ninth Keen Sword but the first since 2004. Wright says each installment is important: “In the challenging environment of modern combat operations, you can never have enough friends.”

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