Sun, Apr 08, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Japan activates new marines unit

Reuters, SASEBO and TOKYO

Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade members gather yesterday at a ceremony activating the brigade in Sasebo, Japan.

Photo: Reuters

Japan yesterday activated its first marine unit since World War II trained to counter invaders occupying Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea that Tokyo fears are vulnerable to attack by China.

In a ceremony held at a military base near Sasebo on the southwest island of Kyushu, about 1,500 members of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) wearing camouflage lined up outside.

“Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate,” Japanese Vice Minister of Defense Tomohiro Yamamoto said.

The formation of the Japanese marine brigade is controversial because amphibious units can project military force and could, critics say, be used to threaten Japan’s neighbors.

The brigade is the latest component of a growing marine force that includes helicopter carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey tilt-rotor troop carriers and amphibious assault vehicles, meant to deter China as it pushes for easier access to the western Pacific.

China, which dominates the South China Sea, is outpacing Japan in defense spending. This year, Beijing, which claims a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo, is to spend 1.11 trillion yuan (US$176.13 billion) on its armed forces, more than three times as much as Japan.

The activation of the 2,100-strong ARDB takes Japan a step closer to creating a force similar to a US Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) able to plan and execute operations at sea far from its home base.

“They’ve already demonstrated the ability to put together an ad hoc MEU, but to have a solid, standing MEU capability requires concerted effort,” said Grant Newsham, a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies. “If Japan put its mind to it, within a year or year-and-a-half it could have a reasonable capability.”

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