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Friday, July 6, 2012

RIMPAC chief wants MSDF executive officer


WASHINGTON — The commander of the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific naval exercise has voiced expectations that the Maritime Self-Defense Force will play a greater role with MSDF Rear Adm. Fumiyuki Kitagawa serving as vice commander of its Combined Task Force.

Kitagawa's appointment to the post "was a natural evolution" as the MSDF has participated in the multilateral drills for years, Vice Adm. Gerald Beaman — commander of RIMPAC and the U.S. 3rd Fleet — said in a joint interview.

"It was time that we expand and allow some of the partners to assume a command function," Beaman said.

According to the Pentagon, it is the first time a commander from an overseas navy has assumed a leadership position in RIMPAC.

"The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan over a year ago is one clear example of the benefits of having participated in exercises," Beaman said, noting the importance of building partnerships with participant countries through joint naval drills to better prepare for natural disasters.

"Many nations responded to help Japan, and we firmly believe that for sure, (the U.S.) Navy's participation in that relief effort was enhanced because of the relationship we had built in previous RIMPAC exercises."

Beaman also revealed that the MSDF will not join an exercise to sink a decommissioned U.S. warship this year.

The MSDF took part in a similar exercise in the 2010 RIMPAC along with other navies, drawing flak from some quarters in Japan because the Constitution prevents it from engaging in collective self-defense.

A total of 22 countries, 42 ships and more than 200 aircraft are participating in this year's RIMPAC.

The exercise, which was first held in 1971, takes place roughly biennially off Hawaii.

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