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Talisman Sabre Joint Exercises Bring Friends Together for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific

Organizers say the Australian Talisman Sabre military drills help Japan, South Korea and the US with "current and potential future global security challenges."



Lieutenant General Hiroki Kobayashi, Vice Chief of Staff of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force speaks with JGSDF soldiers ahead of a live fire of a JGSDF Type 12 Surface Ship Missile at Beecroft Weapons Range, NSW in the lead up to Exercise Talisman Sabre. (©Royal Australian Navy/Sgt Andrew Sleeman)

A heavily armed division of 1,500 Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen are taking part in an exercise simulating a large-scale military assault. The multilateral exercise, called Talisman Sabre, runs from mid-July until early August.

Drills are being conducted across thousands of miles of territory in Australia. Troops from America, Germany, South Korea, and nine other nations are also taking part.

The chief of staff of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force, General Yasunori Morishita, commented on its significance. 

Exercise Talisman Sabre is important because it strengthens cooperation with Australia and the US, which will help maintain and strengthen a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

He added: "I believe the exercise in conjunction with the Australian Navy will enhance a high level of trust between Australia and Japan."

Talisman Sabre parties participate in live fire drills at Australia's Shoalwater Bay training ground. (Via Talisman Sabre 2023 Twitter)

Live Fire Drills

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) sent a helicopter carrier, the JS Izumo, and a landing ship, JS Shimokita. It said the ships have been involved in amphibious training drills involving live fire. 

The Australian Department of Defense said that participating countries trained for "complex, multi-domain warfare scenarios that replicated current and potential future global security challenges."

General Morishita said that such exercises play a crucial role in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. It nurtures high levels of trust between nations, he explained.

During a high-visibility exercise at the Shoalwater Bay training area in Australia, Japan, and South Korea launched rockets more or less simultaneously. It was a move designed to showcase the potential for interoperability between the two armed forces.

South Korea deployed an artillery system known as the K239 Chunmoo. Its operation was supported by more than 700 troops, as well as an amphibious assault ship.


Brigadier Damian Hill is the Australian soldier in overall charge of the exercise. He said: "As an artillery officer, it's really exciting to see all these capabilities demonstrated together at a live-fire activity." 

Japan participates in Talisman Sabre 2023 exercises at the Sholawater Bay training ground alongside Australia, the US, South Korea, and Germany. (Via Talisman Sabre 2023 Twitter)

International Effort

The British army also took part in drills. Armed Services Minister James Heappey traveled from London to observe the event. The minister said that the United Kingdom shares an objective with the Quad countries - including Australia and Japan. that is to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. He added that the British Royal Navy has assigned two patrol vessels to the region.

America’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also visited Australia to observe the exercise. He met with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles on July 28. Reports on the meeting quote Secretary Austin as saying

We've seen troubling PRC coercion from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to right here in the South-West Pacific. And [we] will continue to support our allies and partners as they defend themselves from bullying behavior.

Mr Marles put his country's concerns into the broader context, according to the same reports. He said, "We see the global rules-based order under threat in Eastern Europe. And we see it under pressure in the Indo-Pacific" 

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) alongside the Royal Australian Navy inspect a JGSDF Type 12 Surface-to-Ship Missile. They are at Beecroft Weapons Range, NSW in the lead up to Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023.(©Royal Australian Navy/Sgt Andrew Sleeman)

A reporter on the scene, Colin Clark, founding editor of Breaking Defense, notes that this was the tenth iteration of Talisman Sabre. And it has also involved nations maneuvering at sea, on land, and in the air to find and destroy an unnamed enemy.

"All the officials involved were careful not to mention any country as the enemy. No one said it was China; no one had to," he said.

Taiwan Prepares for Attack

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, local forces have this week conducted an anti-aircraft landing drill at the main international airport. The exercise simulated the repulsion of an invading force.

A formation of Black Hawk helicopters landed at Taoyuan International Airport, which is about 30 km west of the capital, Taipei. Each dropped six machine gun-carrying soldiers, marked in red, to simulate a Chinese invasion force.

Training exercises take place at Taoyuan Airport on July 20, 2023 (via Twitter/Geopolics Eye)

Kathrin Hille of the Financial Times, who witnessed the exercise, writes that after a half an hour battle, the Taiwanese forces prevailed. The Taiwanese military also practiced fending off an amphibious invasion force. In addition, soldiers practiced establishing bases in the mountains, where they role-played resistance against a Chinese invasion.

The drills come as China ramps up military pressure to force the island to accept its sovereignty.

China 'Annihilated'

In a recent scenario orchestrated by a Japanese think tank involving a hypothetical Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the outcome predicted a victory for Taiwanese troops, who were said to have "annihilated" PLA forces.

The exercise was conducted by the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, which imagined a speculative scenario of a Chinese military incursion into Taiwan in 2027. 


High-ranking former officers from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces took part in the event. Alongside was a highly decorated four-star Taiwanese Army officer. 

In previous exercises, the Forum for Strategic Studies has also considered how the Self-Defense Forces would respond if there was a Chinese attack on the island of Okinawa.


Author: Duncan Bartlett, Diplomatic Correspondent

Mr Bartlett is the Diplomatic Correspondent for JAPAN Forward and a Research Associate at the SOAS China Institute. Read his other articles and essays.

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