The Australian Defence Force is set to actively participate in Exercise Yama Sakura 85 alongside Japan and the United States, marking a significant stride in bolstering the nation’s interoperability and mutual defence capabilities within the Pacific region. Commencing on December 4 at Camp Higashi-Chitose on Hokkaido Island, this exercise has a longstanding history, originating in 1982 with the primary aim of enhancing interoperability between the Japanese and U.S. military forces, while also honing command and control for large-scale operations.

Australia, having been an observer for over a decade, is now taking a more active role, reflecting the evolving strategic alignment among these nations. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles emphasized the importance of this collaboration, stating, “Our growing strategic alignment contributes to shared security challenges in our region and is key to promoting an open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

With expectations that over 200 members of the Australian Defence Force will partake in this large-scale command post training exercise, the move underscores a commitment to trilateral cooperation aimed at fostering an open, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. The invitation extended to the Australian Army followed the conclusion of Exercise Yama Sakura 83.

Major General Scott Winter AM, Commander of the 1st Division, affirmed the significance of Australia’s involvement, stating, “Australia’s participation in Exercise Yama Sakura 85 is a significant step forward in trilateral cooperation in support of an open, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

This iteration of the exercise is poised to be the largest to date, featuring 230 members of the Australian Army, 1,500 members of the U.S. Army, and 5,300 members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force. The timing of Yama Sakura 85 follows Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles’ official trip to Japan, during which he reinforced the strategic partnership between the two nations.

During the visit, Marles underscored Japan’s central role as an “indispensable partner” to Australia, engaging in discussions with Japanese Minister of Defence Kihara Minoru. The ministers welcomed the entry into force of the landmark Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement, a transformative agreement that enhances bilateral defence cooperation and interoperability of forces. The visit also provided an opportunity to discuss recent milestones in the strategic partnership between Australia and Japan.

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