Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, Japan's first marine unit since World War Two, gather before a ceremony activating the brigade at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato
national

Japan activates first marines since WW2 to bolster defenses

59 Comments
By Nobuhiro Kubo and Tim Kelly

Japan on Saturday activated its first marine unit since World War Two 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 amid cold, windy weather.

"Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate," Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defense minister, said in a speech.

The troops conducted a 20-minute mock public exercise recapturing a remote island from invaders.

The formation of the Japanese marine brigade is controversial because amphibious units can project military force and could, critics warn, be used to threaten Japan’s neighbours. In its post World War Two constitution Japan renounced the right to wage war.

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. In 2018, Beijing which claims a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo, will spend 1.11 trillion yuan ($176.56 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 U.S. 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," 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."

Newsham, who helped train Japan's first amphibious troops as a U.S. Marine Corps colonel liaison officer assigned to the Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF), said Japan still needs a joint navy-army amphibious headquarters to coordinate operations as well as more amphibious ships to carry troops and equipment.

<img class="img-responsive full" src="https&#x3A;&#x2F;&#x2F;asset.japantoday.com&#x2F;img&#x2F;store&#x2F;b5&#x2F;e4&#x2F;37f02827448600498dc731ef630b13f566d5&#x2F;sasebo.jpg"><div class="mt-5 text-gray text-condensed text-light text-small">The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Izumo-class helicopter carrier DDH-184 Kaga and other JMSDF destroyers and vessels are moored at a naval base in Sasebo on Saturday. <span class="sep text-primary"></span> Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato</div>

Japanese military planners are already mulling some of those additions. Its Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) wants to acquire F-35Bs to operate from its Izumo and Ise helicopter carriers, or from islands along the East China Sea, sources have told Reuters.

The United States last month deployed its F-35Bs for their first at-sea operations aboard the USS Wasp amphibious assault ship, which is based in Sasebo. The Kyushu port is also home to Japan's Ise and close to the ARDB's base.

Separately the GSDF may acquire small amphibious ships up to a 100 meters long to transport troops and equipment between islands and from ship to shore, two sources familiar with the discussion said. Japanese ground forces have not operated their own ships since World War Two.

"The idea is to bring forces and gear on large ships to the main Okinawa island and then disperse them to other islands on smaller vessels," said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

© Thomson Reuters 2018.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

59 Comments
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A very sensible project, and long overdue. As an island nation, having marines is a must for Japan.

As for them being "controversial", they're not a threat to their neighbours, because Japan simply doesn't have the manpower to start assaulting other countries (and never will). All it will do is make it harder for countries like China to occupy outlying Japanese islands and hold on to them.

17 ( +24 / -7 )

Even if we have marines, without changing the constitution, it is useless. Maybe it is more profitable for Japan to have good relationship with China than confront them.

-14 ( +10 / -24 )

SchopenhauerToday 06:36 am JST

Even if we have marines, without changing the constitution, it is useless. Maybe it is more profitable for Japan to have good relationship with China than confront them.

by good relationship, do you mean hand them the entire sea?

19 ( +24 / -5 )

Imagine those young men contributing to society - helping the elderly, boosting the family-sector in aging society, preventing crimes, building homes and public facilities, curing the ill, or at least draw an animation! And what are they doing instead?

Triggering Asians.

-22 ( +7 / -29 )

In 50 years or 100 years, U.S. Forces may not be in Japan and Korea. The world in this area will be dominated by China.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

Activation of marines unit by Japan is a wise step in the right direction to strengthen its defences against any hostile encroacher.

15 ( +20 / -5 )

Good on Japan, about time it bolstered its defenses in light of the missiles launched in its direction and aggressive posturing by other nations over Japanese islands.

17 ( +22 / -5 )

Love the opening paragraph: But fact; Active military available - China 2,260,000 / US 1,373,650 / Japan 248,575. AND Total Available for military service - China 750,000,000 / US 145,215,000 / Japan 54,000,000

Though I like the effort by Japan to beef up their military to protect its people, I don't believe China is shaking in their boots.

-8 ( +8 / -16 )

Is only a small force but a step in the right direction. Not need to change the costitution, being a pacifist country does not mean letting China (or any other country) do what it wants in the waters of other countries.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

The troops conducted a 20-minute mock public exercise recapturing a remote island from invaders

What scenario do they have in mind here? If China invaded any island it would have air, sea and ground superiority. Best defense is good relations with former enemies such as the Koreas and China. .

-5 ( +10 / -15 )

Abe will do anything to change the topic... playing with people's lives in order to stay in power. Seriously wrong.

-6 ( +10 / -16 )

Very good news.... activate a few more unites and replace the U.S. Marines that are stationed in Okinawa and around Japan.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Cool; looks like I just MAY be able to get some Contract work in Okinawa; FINALLY.

There MUST be some "Support" work that will pop up, eventually. See you on the beach :) (again).

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Great plan. Move to yanks out of Japan, send them to China .

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

They look papier mache to me.

-12 ( +4 / -16 )

It’s about time that the Japanese Marines stepped up to the plate. The United States has been protecting Japan for decades and it’s time for Japan to carry its own weight.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

"Total Available for military service - Japan 54,000,000" that is a hell of a lot of walking sticks and walking frames for the military to buy.

-5 ( +9 / -14 )

Amazing news! So happy to read the news this morning. PM Abe is showing again he is “up for the fight”,and not going anywhere.Japan is at last “muscling up” to defend her territories. Now is the most dangerous time in Japan for past 70 years,as PM Abe has stated. His order to rebuild and strengthen Military is an action to frighten belligerant neighbors.

Next, I would love to see thousands more Marines stationed in the north of Hokkaido, to protect the Northern Territories.

-6 ( +10 / -16 )

The world in this area will be dominated by China.

This will never happen with strong, rising Japan. Only power capable historically to dominate the region is Japan, China may have more manpower but will never dominate Asia when Japan is around. Change Constitutiin NOW!

-6 ( +11 / -17 )

Now is the most dangerous time in Japan for past 70 years,

I think 2011 3/11 with 20,000 dead and ongoing radiation issues is. Hyperbole, the defense industry's best friend.

3 ( +12 / -9 )

I do not think JSDF members (salaried men) are determined to die for the defense of the country. That is the reason I said they look "papier mache" to me.

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

Their existence is unconstitutional. Period. But since when does Abe give a spit about what the people want, or what the law says, so long as HE gets what’s he wants, and can shake the laws as he sees fit personally?

Hope no one who suppsrts this ever cries about the horrors Japan has suffered in war, because it seems they want to repeat them.

-4 ( +12 / -16 )

Move makes sense. Doesn’t hurt for Japan’s own identity to become more resilient & carry their responsibility concerning the disputed islands.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Well, first of all, there's no marines in ww2 in Imperial Japan (even air-force). All were divided in Army and Navy. If the Marine Corps will be compound in JSDF it should be 1) small 2) unique 3) cost effective.

Further detail: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-the-Marines-exist-if-we-already-have-the-Army-Navy-and-Air-Force

It means to diminish/reduce high costs at Army-Navy-Air Force in JSDF. Not to be increased by numbers or more annual budges pointed, the actual government to be sure the purpose of this Marine Corps to bolster Japan defenses.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japan and Japanese changed totally losing the last war. There is no patriotism fostered among people. Advocacy of patriotism has been denied and taken as a dangerous sign and reproached by neighboring countries as revival of militarism Japan. Under such situation, we cannot say to them fight and die for the country. We treated them for long as obscure and shady existence of the society. I wonder what kind of education is done to them in JSDF. Do they educate them you have to die by orders?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Sadly, Japan is rapidly becoming little more than Airstrip 2, a giant military/spy base in the service of American global hegemony.

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

Boots on the ground will play a minimal role in any future "battle" scenario.

Cyberwarfare is surely developed to a degree which us mere mortals have zero knowledge about.

Combined with sophisticated Malware, AI and Hacking technologies, an all out digital assault can / will paralyze an opponent with perhaps nary a shot fired. Or if fired done entirely remotely, especially using controlled drones, autonomous drones and advanced weapon technologies.

The show of force of camouflaged soldiers is essentially theatrics for the masses and points for the chiefs.

Many countries are developing military cyber programs.

Who outside of a few chosen ones would have any clue of what's going on - for arguments sake - in the U.S Cyber Commmand - aptly named CYBERCOM. The ability to digitally crush a country is only going to increase.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

This will never happen with strong, rising Japan.

Rising? Failing population and economy losing steam over the last 30 years, You know that China has overtaken Japan economically? . When do nations get stronger by shrinking populations and increasing internal debt levels? Stop the propaganda please.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

This will never happen with strong, rising Japan. Only power capable historically to dominate the region is Japan, China may have more manpower but will never dominate Asia when Japan is around. 

You may want to read some history. And if you do read your history in Kanji, maybe you should stop as that came from China. Japan was dropped to number three economically by who, think it was China many years ago now. No, history clearly shows who the big dog in Asia is and sadly for you and others like you Gambare, history is now repeating itself. Maybe you should start studying Chinese, heck you already know their characters so it should be easy. 準備

0 ( +6 / -6 )

The chances that China will attempt to occupy disputed territory are between slim and none - it would be a shortsighted and politically disastrous move with no obvious strategic or tactical benefit. This is nothing but macho posturing by the Abe junta.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

@Daniel Naumoff

My son is one of those people you look down upon, he is one of the first to go in after a natural disaster, carrying people on his back to safety, he helos in and is lowered down to help rescues others,. So I do believe he is contributing to society. He did not join the JGSDF to start wars, he joined to be a person who would be able to contribute to society when they most need it!

16 ( +16 / -0 )

I do not think JSDF members (salaried men) are determined to die for the defense of the country. That is the reason I said they look "papier mache" to me.

And soldiers of other armies do not receive a salary?

Here’s a copy of the SDF pledge of service.

私は、わが国の平和と独立を守る自衛隊の使命を自覚し、日本国憲法及び法令を遵守し、一致団結、厳正な規律を保持し、常に徳操を養い、人格を尊重し、心身をきたえ、技能をみがき、政治的活動に関与せず、強い責任感をもつて専心職務の遂行にあたり、事に臨んでは危険を顧みず、身をもつて責務の完遂に務め、もつて国民の負託にこたえることを誓います。

“I swear to recognize the duty of the SDF to protect the peace and sovereignty of the Nation of Japan, to observe it’s constitution and laws, to form unity and to strictly uphold discipline, to constantly nurture virtue, to respect individual character, to train the body and mind, to improve in skill, to abstain from political activities, to dedicate myself to completion of tasks with responsibility, to challenge action without hesitation of danger and to strive to complete the mission with my entire being, and to answer to the needs of people.”

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Probably good. An island nation like Japan needs a highly trained marine force to help defend it.

Every member of the Self Defense Forces are "special civil servants" and unlike when people sign up to join a military, are free to leave whenever they want by giving a month's notice. I know two people who did just that.

Otherwise it's just has heard being a member of the Self Defense as it is in any military.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

 I wonder what kind of education is done to them in JSDF. Do they educate them you have to die by orders?

That old trope is such a load of it....

I doubt there is a commander in any army, who would order his men to die.

Dying may be a side effect of executing an operation, but I think you’ll find that armies who intentionally send their men to die lose very quickly.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

A good offense is a good defense.

Japan is a country surrounded by powerful neighbors, so Japan needs to be prepared to defend itself. It's the practical thing to do.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Good to hear Japan’s marines are getting back into action.

Never ever forget the NK missiles launched over Japan last year. That was a comically fatal mistake and happily this will lead to Japan’s revitalization as a major military power.

Never forget and never again

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

I think the key is the withdrawal U.S. Forces from Japan. Then, for the first time, they will think seriously about defending their country themselves. They will realize importance of JSDF and the members will receive due respect of the society. No more "omakase" about the defense of own country.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

1,500 ? To deter china? What kind of joke is that?

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

dcog9065

, what never? What would other countries think about Japan ? Is Japan still peaceful? Obviously not. Then, what other countries will do ? Of course never again. Do you get it ? The never ?

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Now is the most dangerous time in Japan for past 70 years,as PM Abe has stated. His order to rebuild and strengthen Military is an action to frighten belligerant neighbors.

Next, I would love to see thousands more Marines stationed in the north of Hokkaido, to protect the Northern Territories.

Protect Northern Territories? What are you on about? You mean Kuriles ...how do you wanna protect something that is not yours anymore? I think Putin is more than capable of protecting the islands since they are a Russian territory except in the minds of a few hardcores in Japan.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It is clear Trump has given his green light for Japan to create its own army again in order to save money and create business for the USA.

Then, If challenged by neighbours, only technological welfare will have a meaning. Do you believe China or Russia sending troops to any land and losing that battle to Japan ? Think of Crimea for instance.

Can Japan tell to the world : we have defended an islet where hardly no Japanese live and killed hundreds/thousands of soldiers and lost tens. Lol population of Japan is already losing ground !

Some here do not learn history. Go to Hiroshima, Verdun or watch movie Letter of Iwo Jima.

Stop believing in Normandy landings or the Falklands. This is the past.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

This is not about confronting anyone. This is preparedness for contingencies and the unthinkable. Without this and other capabilities we will all be sitting ducks!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

hattorikun, in the past 75 years, Japan wsn't occupied by any countries with zero marines. Let us see what the first marines will do to Japan in the next 75 years.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

The Senkaku island is a big rock, you cannot dig in!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The Senkaku island is a big rock, you cannot dig in!

Drill it out and use it to store the nuclear waste

0 ( +3 / -3 )

about time it bolstered its defenses in light of the missiles launched in its direction and aggressive posturing by other nations over Japanese islands.

Quite a reversal from 70 years ago when Japan was the aggressor of other nations in Asia. The past has come back to haunt her.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

It seems unconstitutional. Abe has to make a public statement for the constitutional basis for the move, and the link between it with the territorial land selling scandal.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

This is another good move by Abe. The more prepared Japan is, the better.

But more is needed in the near future. Keep up the good work Abe.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

@Middleoftheroad

I remember you mentioned before that your son is an air rescue/MEDEVAC combat medic.

I have nothing but respect for those guys. Each and every one of them could probably easily make it into the spec-ops, but chose that branch of service.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Not exporting military stuff but being a giant seven, wow, is it time to change ....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wise move. China represents an existential threat to all it's nieghbors, and international shipping.

Cowering in the face of a threat is a terrible mistake.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

hattorikun, in the past 75 years, Japan wsn't occupied by any countries with zero marines. Let us see what the first marines will do to Japan in the next 75 years.

Actually, Takeshima and, Northern territories is being occupied now which would had been avoided if Japan had these capabilities then.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It is purely provotive. First, there is a fundamental pricprinciple that there will never again be a war between Japan and China. It is written on stones by Japanese people and Chinese people, in the parks of both countries. Secondly, if Japan is invaded, or occupied illegally, then everyone is Marines, Abe should not excluded. Then why Abe would start it ? It is a big stink.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

It’s time for Japan To be responsible for its defense and for Asia .

Asia needs having balance military power in order to keep peace and prosperity.

Us is always good trusted allie , but it is time for US to relax and take care of its own issues.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

China has not attacked, or invaded Japan, and Chinese military vessels have not entered Japans Territorial Waters, so why does Japan feel so threatened by China.

NK is a different matter, flying missiles over Japanese AIr Space.

Ships sail close to countries Territorial Waters everyday in the world without threat.

Maybe Japan needs more diplomatic skills.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

TriringApr. 8 10:02 pm JSThattorikun, in the past 75 years, Japan wsn't occupied by any countries with zero marines. Let us see what the first marines will do to Japan in the next 75 years.

Actually, Takeshima and, Northern territories is being occupied now which would had been avoided if Japan had these capabilities then.

Triring - Japan lost those territories as a result of having been defeated in the war.

Directly in the case of Russias advances and occupation, legal or otherwise.

And indirectly by S.Koreas later claim and occupation.

No number of marines would have changed that fact. No number. Unless you imagine that the marine forces (if existed) would have kept on fighting after surrender just to keep those territories.

No further comment.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ since1981

Love the opening paragraph: But fact; Active military available - China 2,260,000 / US 1,373,650 / Japan 248,575. AND Total Available for military service - China 750,000,000 / US 145,215,000 / Japan 54,000,000

Though I like the effort by Japan to beef up their military to protect its people, I don't believe China is shaking in their boots.

During the last Sino-Japanese wars the nationalists and communists outnumbered the Japanese by 100%. It's not about 'availability' but about 'quality'.

When you see the this footage [watch the last soldier on stage] about the famous Tibetan singer Sonam Wangmo singing for the PLA troops I wouldn't be shaky about them

too :)

https://youtu.be/In6w0mNi9BQ

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@ akkk1

Quite a reversal from 70 years ago when Japan was the aggressor of other nations in Asia. The past has come back to haunt her.

The Japanese have a different view on this. Visit Yasukuni Jinga and visit Yushukan and enlighten yourself by 'understanding the sincerity and history of noble spirits'.

The Japanese see themselves as the liberators of Colonial Asia and you can't deny that this is, despite the war crimes committed by the Imperial Army, the historical truth.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Netgrump.

Who are you to make historical truth ?

Just see the results and conclusions of IJA in 1945 : 2 nukes because of stubborness.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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