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Two U.S. Navy mine countermeasures ships and 19 Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels have begun a round-the-clock mine-sweeping and disposal exercise off Oita, Japan.

The annual exercise began Wednesday. Minesweepers USS Guardian and USS Patriot, both operating from Sasebo Naval Base, are taking part through Feb. 27 with Japanese ships Uraga and Bungo and 17 Japanese mine countermeasures ships, said Lt. Edward Sisk, Command Task Force 76 spokesman.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit detachments from Sasebo and Guam are working with the Japan Mine Force Headquarters EOD Team to neutralize simulated mines that Patriot, Guardian and Bungo are to detect. Sisk said one detachment will be aboard Patriot and the other aboard Bungo.

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