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U.S., Japan and South Korea hold drills in disputed sea as Biden hosts leaders of Japan, Philippines

A U.S. carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has held a two-day joint exercise with its allies Japan and South Korea as U.S. President Joe Biden met for talks with leaders from Japan and the Philippines at the White House. The military and diplomatic maneuvers are meant to strengthen the partners' solidarity in the face of what they see as China's aggressive military actions in the region.

A number of U.S. and South Korean guided missile destroyers and a Japanese warship joined the drills in the disputed East China Sea, where worries about China's territorial claims are rising. The Associated Press was one of several news organizations allowed a front-row look at the drills.

Rear Adm. Christopher Alexander, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, said the three nations conducted undersea warfare exercises, maritime interdiction operations, search and rescue drills and work focused on communication and data sharing. He told journalists Thursday on the Roosevelt that these drills would help improve communication among the United States and its allies and "better prepare us for a crisis in the region."

F/A-18E Super Hornet combat jets took off from the carrier's flight deck, which also had anti-submarine MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. Journalists were flown more than an hour from Kadena Air Base, the hub of U.S. Pacific air power. Kadena is on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, which is home to about half of the 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan.

"It is a busy time; there is a lot going on in the world," Alexander said. "The significance of this exercise is we have three like-minded countries, three like-minded navies that believe in peace, security and stability in the western Pacific."

In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said its director-general of Asian affairs had met with a top Japanese Embassy official on Friday and expressed "serious concern and strong dissatisfaction" about Japan's "negative moves" during Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's meetings in Washington with Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

That followed earlier Chinese statements that accused the U.S. and Japan of smearing China and urged them to