The southernmost of the Russia-controlled Kuril Islands is seen in the distance from the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, Japan.

The southernmost of the Russia-controlled Kuril Islands is seen in the distance from the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, Japan. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

TOKYO — Six warships from the U.S., Japanese and Canadian navies kicked off a weeklong exercise Monday in the northwestern Pacific, from the Russia-controlled Kuril Islands to waters off Tokyo.

Noble Chinook, part of a larger exercise, is scheduled to conclude Tuesday and includes surface action group training, maneuvering and navigation practice, among other scenarios, according to U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Luka Bakic.

“Our nations share a commitment and a vested interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the series of events included in Large-Scale Global Exercise 23 show that we can work together seamlessly throughout the region,” he said in an email Wednesday.

It’s also the first time Japan’s navy has trained near the Kuril Islands, a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Wednesday. It’s customary in Japan for some government officials to speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

Taking part in Noble Chinook are the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, the Coast Guard cutter Kimbal, the Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier JS Hyuga, the Canadian guided-missile frigates HMCS Vancouver and HMCS Ottawa and the Canadian supply ship MV Asterix.

The exercise was previously scheduled and not a response to any event, according to Bakic and the Self-Defense Force spokesman.

Training is taking place in waters stretching from the greater Tokyo metropolitan area to the Kurils, a Russian-controlled archipelago strung between the Kamchatka Peninsula and Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, according to a Tuesday news release by the Self-Defense Force.

The four southernmost islands in the Kuril archipelago have changed hands several times over the past two centuries but have been under Russian administration since the Soviet Union occupied them in 1945.

Japan considers the four islands its Northern Territories, and the dispute remains one of the primary reasons Russia and Japan have never signed a formal peace treaty.

In September 2022, a flotilla of Chinese and Russian ships held live-fire drills near the islands, prompting Tokyo to call on Moscow to refrain from training near the disputed territory.

Another Chinese-Russian flotilla was spotted Aug. 16 near the Miyako Strait, which separates the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in southwestern Japan. Tokyo viewed the transit as a provocation despite the warships remaining in international waters, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported Aug. 18.

author picture
Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.
author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now