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GSDF to cut to 154,000, but Okinawa to gain

Date Posted: 2010-12-23

Japan’s Defense and Finance Ministers put their heads together and agreed to slash 1,000 from the Ground Self Defense Forces, but decided that more funds, personnel and equipment must be allocated to Okinawa, which includes the Nansei Islands, and to the islands of Kagoshima Prefecture.

The GSDF will be cut to 154,000 members as part of the defense program outline that is to be approved by Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Cabinet by the end of December. Some 7,000 of the GSDF total will be reservists. At the same time, the decision was made to beef up the number of GSDF troops in Okinawa by 2,000, effectively doubling the troop strength here. Hokkaido is most likely to bear the brunt of the GSDF cuts.

The moves are intended to keep a closer eye on China, which has been increasing activities in waters off Japan. The Defense Ministry is considering putting forces to the west of Miyako Island, which it calls a “defense vacuum” where there are no SDF units permanently deployed. Top choices for the new forces are said to be Ishigaki Island, which oversees the Senkaku Islands, and Yonaguni Island, which is close to Taiwan.

Part of the funding for the new initiatives is to come from reducing the number of tanks within the GSDF by 200, down to about 400. The Defense Ministry wants to reduce its arsenal of old Type 74 tanks, and also to slow the purchase of more modern Type 10 tanks.

Naha Air Base will see a 50% increase in the number of jet fighters assigned to the Air Self Defense Force. The number of improved F-15 fighters in Okinawa will increase from 24 to 36.

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