Onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (Bay of Bengal): After Japan, US on Saturday said the trilateral Navy Exercise Malabar-2015, also involving India, was not aimed at China or any other country, but was an initiative to ensure freedom of navigation in the region and enhance communication among the three navies.
Rear Admiral Roy J Kelley, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 12 of the US Navy, said it was "China's issue" when asked about the Asian giant's objection to Japanese participation, but said the exercise was not aimed against it.
"Nothing that we are doing in any part of this exercise or inter-operability is indirectly (aimed) at China. We are trying to improve our relationships and our abilities to operate together as military forces," he told a select group of journalists.
In the 19th edition of the exercise, Chinese official media had criticised Japan's participation. Japan is participating for the fourth time in the naval exercise.
An article in the official Global Times took umbrage over India's move to include Japan in the exercises saying that India-Japan defence cooperation was "dangerous for Asia."
Kelley said the exercise was an attempt at learning from each other and ensure free flow of maritime commerce.
"Exercise Malabar is not aimed at any particular country or operation. Exercise Malabar is aimed at making our navies get comfortable with each other and ensuring freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce to flow around the world," he said.
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), part of the trilateral exercise, had said its participation was not targeted at any country.
Japan's participation "is not targeted at any particular country and the purpose is to create open and free oceans for maritime commerce," Y Murakaawa, Vice Admiral, JMSDF, had said recently.
Kelley said in the Asia-Pacific "this vast area of ocean is very very important to the rest of the world, mostly due to the commerce that comes through."
"Lot of the world's commerce flows in and around Indo-Asia Pacific region. So we want to make sure that the lines of commerce, lines of communication stays open."
Asked how the exercise helps the three navies, he said they figure out how they operate differently and how they can communicate and coordinate their operation by practising the exercises and "making sure we are comfortable operating with each other and trust each other."