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Finnish ministers visit US Navy ship

The USS Kearsarge leaves Helsinki on Monday for joint exercises with the Finnish Defence Forces in the Baltic Sea.

Finland's foreign and defence ministers visited the US Navy's USS Kearsarge, which was docked in Helsinki on Sunday. Image: Saara Hirvonen / Yle

Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Green) visited the USS Kearsarge on Sunday in Helsinki's Hernesaari harbour, ahead of the ship's departure on Monday for joint exercises with the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF).

The amphibious assault ship arrived in Finland on Friday and is closed to the public, but the enormous 257 metre-long hull could be viewed from Hernesaari.

The ministers were joined by the ship's commanders, personnel from the US Embassy and US Ambassador Douglas Hickey, who on Friday said that Finland has broad, bipartisan support from the United States.

This visit also coincides the same week as the US Senate ratified Finland's bid to join Nato.

According to the Commander of the Marine Expeditionary Unit, Colonel Paul Morita, the USS Kearsarge was ordered to Helsinki on a month's notice. Typically preparations for such a visit and exercise take up to half a year, but Morita said that both the American and Finnish planners have made the process quite smooth.

In a tweet (siirryt toiseen palveluun), defence minister Kaikkonen thanked the crew of the USS Kearsarge for an excellent visit.

Kaikkonen also said that the upcoming exercise between Finnish and US forces in the Baltic Sea is not only beneficial for Finland, but also the US.

"Apart from this [visit] being symbolic and political support, it can also be said that the US Navy represents the best know-how in the world. Practising with them without a doubt improves our skills. But it just so happens that in these corners of the Baltic Sea, our troops are also quite skilled, so I wouldn't be surprised if they [US troops] also learn something from this trip," Kaikkonen said on board the ship's flight deck. In past exercises between the US and Finnish militaries, both sides have learned from each other, he added.

In June, the US Army trained with the Finnish Defence Forces on Helsinki's island military installation of Santahamina, an exercise both parties said they found productive and strengthening to their relationship.

Edit note added on 8.8.2022 at 11:53am to reflect that Colonel Paul Morita's full title is Commander of the Marine Expeditionary Unit.