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The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy is anchored in Darwin Harbor for Australian exercise Kakadu 2018, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy is anchored in Darwin Harbor for Australian exercise Kakadu 2018, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (Morgan Nall/U.S. Navy)

The USS Michael Murphy is in Australia for 16 days of drills aimed at fostering and strengthening security and humanitarian partnerships throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

The Hawaii-based guided-missile destroyer entered Australian waters just in time for Friday’s opening ceremony in Darwin. Kakadu 2018 is expected to involve more than 23 ships and submarines, 21 aircraft and about 3,000 personnel from more than 27 nations.

It’s the second time the United States has participated in the biennial event, which the Royal Australian Navy says is the country’s largest naval exercise.

Other participants include India and China, which is joining Kakadu for the first time, according to an Australia Broadcasting Corporation report.

The U.S. disinvited the communist state to July’s Rim of the Pacific naval drills over Beijing’s occupation and militarization of disputed islets in the South China Sea.

Seventh Fleet commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, who attended Friday’s opening ceremony, said Kakadu demonstrates Australia’s commitment to freedom of navigation in the Pacific.

“Hosting a massive, multilateral exercise like this shows the Royal Australian Navy’s strong leadership and commitment to providing security in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said in a Navy statement issued Friday.

The 7th Fleet visited Australia earlier this year to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its formation in Brisbane.

lopez.christian@stripes.com

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