YOKOSUKA, Japan -- Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Bill Merz hosted Adm. YAMAMURA Hiroshi, Chief of Staff, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) along with senior JMSDF leadership Feb. 22 aboard the 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19).
Adm. Yamamura and his staff were ceremoniously welcomed aboard Blue Ridge and gathered in the Fleet Conference Room for an engagement with the 7th Fleet commander. Discussed was the current operating environment, mission and vision, and opportunities for future integration, aimed at leveraging the strong U.S.-Japan partnership to continually improve the combined maritime posture.
"In just the first two months of this year alone, the 7th Fleet and JMSDF partnership has proven as consistent as it is critical," said Merz. "Meetings like these allow us to evaluate our progress and to discuss future opportunities. Engaging with Adm. Yamamura and the JMSDF leaders was productive and a pleasure as always."
The JMSDF leaders in attendance included Vice Adm. YUASA Hideki, Commander in Chief, Self-Defense Fleet, Rear Adm. OMACHI Atsushi, Director General of Operations and Plans Department, Maritime Staff Office, and other leaders.
“First of all, I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts of Vice Adm. Merz and his staff to provide an opportunity to meet together onboard his flagship, USS Blue Ridge,” said Yamamura. “Today’s meeting made me reconfirm the importance of close cooperation between the 7th Fleet and the JMSDF. The JMSDF will further deepen and strengthen interoperability with the U.S. Navy to contribute to maintaining and reinforcing a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific.’”
Japan and the U.S. have joined forces during five different exercises in 2021 so far. On Jan. 21, 2021, Merz and Vice Adm. Yuasa also participated in the 2021 iteration of the Fleet Commander's Roundtable, alongside Australian and Republic of Korea fleet commanders.
Going on 61 years of regional cooperation, the U.S.-Japan alliance continues to build upon combined operations and joint capabilities, both with each other and with partners throughout the Indo-Pacific Region.
As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet employs 50-70 ships and submarines across the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. U.S. 7th Fleet routinely operates and interacts with 35 maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific.