Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY TRENDING
Christopher Woody

Elite Japanese marines headed to disputed islands for exercise

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan)

Just a few months after activating its elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, Japan plans to send the crisis-response force modeled off the US Marine Corps on its first naval exercise before the end of 2018.

Japan disbanded its military after World War II, but it has grown its armed forces in recent years and established the ARDB in late March 2018 as part of an effort to counter increasing Chinese activity in the East China Sea and around the region.


The new unit — tasked with defending Japan's remote islands — carried out its first training exercise in early April 2018.

Tokyo has not said where the naval exercise will take place, but analysts have said that the Senkaku Islands — which Japan administers but are claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands and by Taiwan as the Diaoyutai Islands — may be an area of operations for the new, roughly 2,100-member ARDB, according to Taiwan News.

Service members with the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade show their capabilities during the ARDB's unit-activation ceremony at Camp Ainoura, Japan, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan)

It's also not yet known what the exercise will entail, though it may include approaching and securing an island or islands.

The unit, which is based in southwest Japan, specializes in operations involving AAV-7 amphibious vehicles, MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and Chinook helicopters.

The unit was reportedly modeled after US Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Units, which are deployed abroad for extended periods for training and for rapid response to crises, whether it's a natural disaster or a conflict. Japanese officials received advice from US advisers about the ARDB's formation.

"The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade will show to the international society our firm resolve to defend our islands," a senior Japanese Defense Ministry official said in April 2018.

The expanding role and capabilities of Japan's military are controversial subjects. The country adopted a pacifist constitution after World War II, eschewing offensive military operations. Recent years have seen a push to strengthen the military, led by the hawkish government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The decision to reactivate the ARDB was a contentious one, as it gave Japan's Self-Defense Force the ability to land in enemy territory. Such concerns are balanced against worries over China's increasingly assertive actions in the region.

Japan's Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade takes part in a drill at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, on the southwest island of Kyushu, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan)

The ARDB's first naval exercise appears to be a response to Beijing's recent naval exercises around Taiwan, including drills in the Yellow Sea between August 10 and 13, 2018, a window that overlapped with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's departure for a trip to the US and Latin America.

The latter region is home to 10 of Taiwan's remaining 18 formal allies — China has lured away two of Taipei's Latin American allies over the past year.

The Chinese naval drills included air-defense and anti-missile live-fire exercises — meant to counter the capabilities of the US, Japan, and other militaries active in the region.

The formation of the ARDB is not the only move Japan has made to bolster its military or to counter China. The country has pursued external alliances and partnerships as part of that effort, but much of its focus has been on internal reforms.

It lifted a ban on military exports in 2014, and in 2015 the Japanese parliament approved a law allowing the country's military to mobilize overseas under certain conditions. Japan's 2017 military budget was its largest ever.

In March 2018, Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force carried out its largest reorganization since 1954, creating unified commands and launching the ARDB.

More recently, the government said it would raise the maximum age for military recruits from 26 to 32, hoping to expand the pool of potential soldiers that has shrunk due to low birth rates and an aging population.

"Other countries, like Japan, are really ... reinvigorating their own military capability or reforming the constitution, like Abe has tried to do," Hervé Lemahieu, a research fellow at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, told Business Insider in May 2018. "That's also been called internal rebalancing by the Japanese."

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.