SYDNEY (Reuters) – The United States on Saturday ordered the launch of a warship in Sydney, Australia, the first time a US Navy ship has joined active duty in a foreign port, as the two close allies beef up their military ties in response to China’s regional expansion.
The Independence-class littoral combat ship — named after the Royal Australian Navy cruiser that was sunk while supporting the US Naval landings at Guadalcanal in 1942 — was commissioned in a ceremony at the Australian Naval Base in Sydney Harbour, officially joining the US Navy’s active fleet.
“Australians can be proud that this ship, designed in Western Australia by local industry and named HMAS Canberra, is being commissioned here for the first time in the history of the US Navy,” Australian Defense Minister Marlies said in a statement.
He added that the US ship’s operation in Australian waters reflected “our shared commitment to upholding the rules-based order”.
The celebration comes amid the biannual military exercises Talisman Saber between the United States and Australia, which is seen as a show of strength and unity as China increasingly asserts its power in the Indo-Pacific region.
The exercises, which take place at various locations across Australia over the course of two weeks, include mock ground and air combat, as well as amphibious landings.
In addition to Australia and the United States, troops from Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Korea, Tonga and Britain are involved.
As part of the war games, Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force on Saturday fired a surface-to-ship missile off the east coast of Australia in Jervis Bay, about 195 kilometers (121 miles) south of Sydney.
The Australian Ministry of Defense said the exercise “was the first time the JGSDF had tested the capability in Australia”.
Germany participates for the first time with 210 paratroopers and marines, as the European country strengthens its presence in the region.
As part of the AUKUS project announced in March, the United States and Britain agreed to help Australia acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
Before that, in the early 1930s, the United States was supposed to sell Australia three American Virginia-class nuclear submarines, with an option for Australia to buy two more.
Additional reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney. Editing by Stephen Coates
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