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The Quad + Korea Opens 2024 with Exercise Sea Dragon

Asia India Japan Korea Australia

Exercise Sea Dragon 2024 was completed at the end of January 2024. The anti-submarine warfare exercise aimed to improve interoperability between the Quad countries – the US, Australia, India, and Japan – and the Republic of Korea.

The four countries of the Quad – Japan, India, the US, and Australia – plus the Republic of Korea (South Korea), concluded their annual anti-submarine warfare exercise in Guam on January 24th, 2024. Dubbed Sea Dragon, the two-week exercise hosted by the US Navy’s (USN) 7th fleet aimed to improve tactical and command interoperability between the allies and partners.

The exercise convened the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft communities from the USN, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Indian Navy (INN), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) and consisted of various trainings and competitions. According to Squadron Leader and RAAF Exercise Sea Dragon Detachment Commander Jacqueline Killian, “crews engaged in identifying, tracking, and targeting both simulated and live submarine targets, culminating in a 24-hour continuous monitoring activity” to improve the accuracy and speed of attacks. Another RAAF official emphasized that the exercise helped participating countries to better understand the “technological and people-related nuances of working with (others).”

Starting as a joint USN-RAAF exercise in 2019, Sea Dragon has since evolved in scope with each annual iteration. In 2020, the exercise included the JMSDF, ROKN, and the Royal New Zealand Navy. The Quad was first featured in the 2021 exercise, as was the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). In 2022, the Quad, RCAF, and ROKN participated, and in 2023, the RCAF, INN, JMSDF, and the ROKN participated. The exercise’s significance increases by the year as participating countries observe a growing need for integrated forces in the face of a looming Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Quad plus Korea structure of Sea Dragon 2024 is significant. Analysts have debated and advocated for Korea to join the Quad, with some evaluating the partnership as beneficial for collaboration in spaces like maritime domain awareness.

Despite the evolution of Sea Dragon, the official Chinese perception of US intentions has stayed consistent – for the US to showcase their “air-based anti-submarine strengths” and “increase arms sales.”

Exercise Sea Dragon concluded as the Quad postponed its annual summit, originally to be held on January 27th, to late 2024.

Lei Nishiuwatoko is a Spring 2024 Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. She recently graduated from Northeastern University where she obtained a B.A. in International Affairs. Lei has previously interned at the NATO Defense College, WorldBoston, and L.E.K. Consulting.