YOKOSUKA, Japan -- Naval leaders from across the Indo-Pacific convened for a professional exchange of ideas on operational topics aboard the 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), Jan. 17.
The Fleet Commander’s Roundtable (FCRT), hosted by Vice Adm. Bill Merz, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, included Royal Australian Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan Mead, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Vice Adm. Hiroyuki Kasui and Republic of Korea Navy, Vice Adm. Lee Sung-Hwan. The meeting provided a forum to engage in professional dialogues on various maritime issues such as multilateral exercises, freedom of navigation operations and maritime law, rules and norms.
“This is a valuable opportunity for our Navies to share information and improve our interoperability in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Mead. “By strengthening partnerships with our regional and global partners, we promote a shared understanding of the benefits of maintaining security and stability in the maritime domain.”
Each Fleet Commander identified the key strategic risks and threats across the Indo-Pacific.
“Our Naval Forces are the guardians of maritime peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific," said Kasui.
Discussions also focused on Maritime Security Force Assistance through Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercises, Maritime Training Activities and other partner building events that increase multilateral cooperation.
"Through this roundtable, I hope to see the enhancement of steadfast partnership between combined navies by discussing various topics," said Sung-Hwan.
The maritime leaders also discussed ways to increase theater security cooperation (TSC) events, and operations at sea through multilateral military interactions designed uphold international norms in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“These discussions demonstrated that the proactive efforts to form strong relationships in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region and enforcement of international norms has paid off,” said Merz. “These are the Fleets pressing forward with real capability and high-end, coordinated operations. Very satisfying to see such enthusiasm across the teams.”
This year’s roundtable builds upon the 2018 FCRT, which led to the creation of the quadrilateral exercise Pacific Vanguard. The exercise took place in 2019, and in its first two iterations, brought together maritime forces from Australia, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States. U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward deployed naval operations that provide security throughout the Indo-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy’s largest overseas fleet, 7th Fleet continues to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.