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U.S. soldiers wearing protective face masks stand in front of a C-130 transport plane during a military drill at Yokota U.S. Air Force Base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, on Thursday. Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato
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U.S military at Japan base shows it can function during pandemic

30 Comments
By Tim Kelly

U.S. Air Force transport aircraft on Thursday massed at Washington's key Asian military air transportation hub, Yokota Air Base in Japan, to show potential foes and allies it was ready for action despite the coronavirus emergency.

"It shows both our adversaries as well as our allies in Japan the importance of our placement, the importance of our ability to execute our mission," base Vice Commander, Colonel Jason Mills, said.

U.S. forces are stationed in Japan to defend Washington's key Asian ally from attack from North Korea, but also to check China's growing influence in the wider region, including Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

As Washington tries to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, some officials worry outbreaks in the military may provide fodder for Beijing to question U.S. strength in the region.

"When you’re dealing with COVID-19 induced domestic chaos, you just can’t pay as much attention to foreign affairs," said Grant Newsham, a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and a former U.S. Marine colonel who liaised with Japan's Self Defense Forces.

In April, the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was forced to dock in Guam after a coronavirus outbreak infected several hundred sailors. Carriers such as the Ronald Reagan that is forward deployed in Japan and others that regularly pass through Asian waters are among the most conspicuous symbols of U.S. military might.

Yokota has had to quarantine sailors passing through the base who have tested positive for the virus.

Yokota's air wing, including C-130 transport planes and helicopters, moves troops and equipment around the Asia Pacific. Like other bases in Japan, which hosts the largest concentration of U.S. military personnel outside the United States, it has declared a public health emergency.

Troops at the base in western Tokyo are under orders to keep a distance from each other and local people and wear face masks. Commanders have also split personnel into shifts to lessen contact.

The coronavirus, like the rain that reduced visibility on Thursday, was another issue for air and ground crews to deal with to keep their aircraft flying, said Mills.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
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Some soldiers with masks, some without and zero social distancing-I feel less safe already...!

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

And please remind me again why Japan still can't become a sovereign nation and why there are fears that another country might want to invade Japan? Is it the wise elderly population? Perhaps they would want the debt burden? Wait, it's Japan's abundant energy and mineral resources...

0 ( +9 / -9 )

As Japanese govt pays for US bases and personnel, Abe is only sending 2 masks to each person. Maybe it will take a while.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

I live near one of those bases, I see the Military personnel in and out of uniform going to local markets riding trains never wearing a mask, you never hear how many is infected on the base

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Anyone who has ever worked on or near and airport or aircraft know that it is imperative that clear communication is maintained at all times for safety reasons and to do so, due to the noise of aircraft engines and support equipment operating nearby requires maintainers and crew to be very close to each other in order to clearly hear instructions. Social distancing in this case could cause an accident and/or death.

Japan is a sovereign nation as is England, Germany, France, Australia, Italy, Spain and many others who have diplomatic and shared defense agreements with the US and other nations. If Japan ever decides it no longer wants to host US military personnel who provide for the defense of the host country as well as extend America's long range defense, the Japanese government can and that relationship. And, BTW, why would another nation want to invade Japan? Hmmm...Senkaku Islands and control of sea lanes ring a bell?

The Japanese government, per long-standing diplomatic agreements, does pay for a large portion of the US bases and their maintenance and improvements. The Japanese government does NOT pay for the US personnel stationed at these bases.

Facts.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

Japan is a sovereign nation only in name.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

I still don't know whether, how much host Japan would be able to intervene into American airbase situations under virus crisis of this kind. The status of agreement may not account for it while human mobility into and from locals remains existent even during the state emergency.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lot of people understand what is going on and a lot don't.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

By 'function' I assume they mean let the soldiers run amok and rob currency exchange shops?

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

They are not protecting Japan from anything by having air and sea forces stationed here, they are painting a target on Japan. Japan is simply another outpost of the US colonial empire, acquired at the end of WWII. The US has over 800 military installations worldwide. It is hegemony that keeps them there, and their primary purpose is to protect US economic interests.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

They are not protecting Japan from anything by having air and sea forces stationed here, they are painting a target on Japan. Japan is simply another outpost of the US colonial empire, acquired at the end of WWII. The US has over 800 military installations worldwide. It is hegemony that keeps them there, and their primary purpose is to protect US economic interests.

God bless America!

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Fear, fear, fear.

He who can Instill fear on others changes and controls their thought process.

Create an enemy and use it to build understanding to arm and keep the merchants of death happy.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Why so many US bases all over the world?

Just a projection of power and a huge drain on societies everywhere...

2 ( +7 / -5 )

@ warispeace: And please remind me again why Japan still can't become a sovereign nation and why there are fears that another country might want to invade Japan?

I believe the key word would be the entire old Rykyo chain islands, all of the South Sea to include Japan territorial waters, numerous encroachments inside Japan territorial waters now being claimed as theirs, mm by mm crawling and grabbing soon unless Japan steps up a notch they will land an invasion force on the actual Senaku islets and Japan will do nothing about it except file grievances and protest but like Tibet the result will be similar and under Chinese control.

@ GoodlucktoyouToday 08:24 am JST

RE: As Japanese govt pays for US bases and personnel,

That used to be the case over 30 years ago at least up to 90% the last few recent years its more like 60/40 shared costs. I have programmed numerous projects for many bases across Japan and the funding is not all coming from the GJ. The US has to get in line and go through a lengthy 10 yr approved funding plan before the project even gets to an award much less design. The US funding which is appropriated funding hires local contract companies with local workforce creating jobs for the Japan economy. This was illegal up until Bill Clinton approved the use of appropriated funds used overseas supporting projects and our infrastructure costs have gone up which is why our current President is against the cost sharing as the US is paying for more than in the past.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Maybe they can use those giant transports to move the mail, to make up for the lack commercial flights it would normally go on.

Oh wait. The US military's idiot Commander-in-Chief hates the post office.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

God bless America!

This kind of comment gives US military cheerleaders a bad name. Maybe it's Stockholm syndrome or maybe it's the awful mixing up of prayer and military might.

Whatever it is, Japan needs to distance itself from a imperial force that has outstayed its welcome here.

That applies to the military, obviously. The many, many decent Americans who have made their homes here are always welcome.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

IMO it's great for both the US and Japan to work side by side and proves that peace and prosperity can work well including the rough bumps but managed to survive and press forward. If only neighbors of Japan would not be so territorial as there really is no need to do so.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If the USA wants to be da-kine credible again then these troops should be in Taiwan not Japan !

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, if I had to choose I’d say the US over say China. Either way they’re ‘protecting’ the same thing. I dare say China will be playing a military card soon if things don’t go their way in the WHO and if the US pushes pulling business production out of China. Best keep troops on alert regardless of health issues. The Chinese Communist Party is cornered. God knows how the Chinese people are faring right now. Pray for peace.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@expat

they are painting a target on Japan. Japan is simply another outpost of the US colonial empire

You nailed it. Japan will be immediately dragged into any future conflict of the U.S. with China just by the simple fact that it has American bases on its soil.

@rgcivilian1

If only neighbors of Japan would not be so territorial

Now there is only one direct threat to the territory of Japan, it's from China with their claims on Senkaku. Japan is very much capable to defend itself, it has very effective Maritime and Air Self Defense forces. No need to chain itself to the U.S. global aspirations.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Now there is only one direct threat to the territory of Japan, it's from China with their claims on Senkaku. Japan is very much capable to defend itself, it has very effective Maritime and Air Self Defense forces. No need to chain itself to the U.S. global aspirations.

Those are some rose-colored glasses you're wearing. Japan's tiny SDF is no match for China's military. At all. In any scenario.

Now, if the Philippines or Vietnam attacked, the JSDF could probably kick their butts.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@garypen

Japan's tiny SDF is no match for China's military. At all. In any scenario

First, SDF is not tiny. Much smaller then the Chinese military, but not tiny. Second, size matters, sure, but more important how you use your size. Japanese fighters, combat ships and submarines are more technically advanced then Chinese, and they are capable to defend Senkaku.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese fighters, combat ships and submarines are more technically advanced then Chinese, and they are capable to defend Senkaku.

If thinking that helps you sleep at night, go right ahead. But, the simple fact is that a mere 150 F-15's, 100 or so F-2's and F-4's, and a handful of problematic F-35's are no match for 500 of China's Russian-designed SU-27 and SU-30, 400 MIG-21's, and 200 very capable Chinese-designed JU-10's.

I can't imagine the JASDF being able to ward off 120 Russia-designed Tupelov TU-16 bombers, either. (None of those numbers include their respective navies' aircraft. But, The JMSDF has far fewer combat aircraft than their China counterpart, as well.)

Like you, I don't like to think that China has an overwhelmingly superior military to that of Japan. But, simply not liking something doesn't make it not be true. I don't like natto, yet I acknowledge its existence.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

no match for 500 of China's Russian-designed SU-27 and SU-30, 400 MIG-21's

I sleep well because I'm not mesmerized by sizes or numbers, I look into capabilities. Su-27/30s are exellent planes, but MiG-21s as well Tu-16s are of 60s vintage. They were great planes of the Cold War, hardly this can be said about them (or their newer variations) now. Anyway, I don't think there will be battles of air armadas in the Battle of Britain style. Batteries of air defence missiles and patrols of Aegis destroyers will keep the air above Senkaku clean.

The bottom line: Japan by itself has the capability to make any stupid Chinese actions against Senkaku prohibitely costly. And China is not stupid to start anything serious against Japan when it has more pressing issues - Taiwan and the territorial problem with India (plus islands issues with Vietnam, Philippines etc), let alone a possible confrontation with the U.S.

Japan just should strengthen its SDF and keep calm. No need to paint additional bulls' eye on itself by hosting American bases. End of story.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why are american Military putting the Country at risk?

Such displays just annoy our neighbors. Is trump trying to de-stabilize the region?

Who is trump trying to punish?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

vanityofvanitiesMay 22  10:39 am JST

Japan is a sovereign nation only in name.

Usual old and boring anti-US-JPN propaganda. Japan is a sovereign nation as established clearly in the 1951 San Francisco Treaty. Any and all interactions between the US and Japan are covered by treaties and agreements.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Of course the US military can function. For more than 99% of young fit people, this virus is less dangerous than the regular flu.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Both carriers in the region were knocked out by the Covid-19.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They could have kept operating both. They took them offline for minor health issues which were fatal to nobody.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is a client-state. The result of a long and horrible war and Imperial Dreams. As for going toe to toe with China, it isn't a game of Trobriand cricket or counting coup. There was mention of Vietnam, which was invaded by the Americans, in case it is forgotten the U.S. was defeated by Vietnam. The U.S. is a war machine and the resources devoted to the military will bankrupt America, if it hasn't already - it is certainly spiritually bankrupt.. The endless wars across the planet and the decline of The Empire poses the USA as another cautionary tale, one unlearned again and again by various empires. Japan lacks natural resources which was one of the many reasons that doomed its war against the Paper Tiger. It will never be a military colossus, why would such be the fevered imaginings of right-wing nutjobs like Abe and his ilk. The best scenario is to join the Silk Road endeavor and parlay that relationship into a future that China will rule. The U.S. is headed to the historical dustbin. Trump or Biden, it doesn't matter both are a moronic choice and will further erode U.S. power and drive the economy into the ground. Japan should cut itself loose. The U.S. military, it an employer of last choice. Lacking any manner of a jobs program, and in fact lacking jobs, the US military is an obvious means for employment. U.S. military is chock full of teenagers and post teens, lambs ready for slaughter is their role.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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