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SYDNEY – The United States commissioned a warship in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday, marking the first time a U.S. Navy vessel has joined active duty in a foreign port as the two nations’ close allies strengthen military ties in response to China’s expanding regional reach.

The Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship, named after the Australian Navy cruiser that was sunk in 1942 while supporting the landing of US Marines on Kudalkanal Island, was commissioned in a ceremony at the Australian Naval Station in Sydney Harbour, formally joining the US Navy’s active fleet.

“Australians can be proud that this ship, designed in Western Australia by local industry and named after HMAS Canberra, is serving here for the first time in the history of the United States Navy,” Australian Defense Minister Richard Mars said in a statement.

He added that the commissioning of US ships in Australian waters reflects “our shared commitment to maintaining rules-based order”.

The ceremony came during the biennial Talisman Saber military exercises between the United States and Australia, seen as a show of strength and unity as China increasingly asserts power in the Indo-Pacific.

The exercises will take place over two weeks at various locations across Australia and include simulated land and air combat and amphibious landings.

In addition to Australian and US forces, Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Tonga and the UK are also participating.

Germany is participating for the first time, with 210 paratroopers and marines participating, as the European nation strengthens its presence in the region.

Under the Oaks Plan announced in March, the US and UK agreed to help Australia build a nuclear submarine fleet.

Before that, the United States will sell three Virginia-class nuclear submarines to Australia in the early 2030s, with an option for Australia to purchase two more.Reuters USS Canberra: First U.S. Navy warship commissioned in foreign port

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