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SJSDF stages joint defensive exercise in Kyushu, Okinawa

Date Posted: 2011-12-02

Concerns about the growing military buildup in China, Japanese Self Defense Forces have staged a large exercise aimed at defending small islands in the Kyushu region and within Okinawa Prefecture.

The November drills marked the first time the Self Defense Forces transferred tank regiments stationed in Hokkaido to Kyushu, testing the SDF logistical capabilities in the event of hostilities. The long-distance transfer of regiments from Hokkaido to Kyushu was a first-ever test of large-scale troop deployments, as well as the ability to move equipment to the battlefield , using private railways and ships.

Some 50 vehicles, including four Type 90 tanks only deployed in Hokkaido, were shifted from Hokkaido to Kyushu on private sector high speed ferries, while 10 armored trucks were moved from Sapporo on Japan Railway trains.

Ground, Maritime and Air Self Defense Forces conducted joint drills in Okinawa’s Amami group of islands. The training theme was protecting the region’s small islands that were being invaded. Officials say “in such a situation, the SDF is making up for a possible decline in U.S. military power within the region, while showing Japanese deterrence capabilities.”

Approximately 35,000 SDF troops, 1,300 vehicles, six warships and more than 180 warplanes were involved in the weeklong drills. Ground-to-Air Patriot 2 missiles and a ground-to-ship regiment were deployed to Amami-Oshima, the main island of the Amami group, from an ASDF base in Okinawa, and a GSDF base in Kumamoto. Officials say the exercise tested the ability to deploy troops from the Kyushu region to Okinawa and the Amami in a crisis situation.

The Defense Ministry is working on improving the defensive posture of Okinawa Prefecture, the Amami Islands and other small regional islands since considering the recent Chinese military buildup. The exercise brought “many problems”, said one official. A professor of security at Takushoku University, Takashi Kawakami, says one of the problems was “whether the SDF could deploy troops, including tank regiments, efficiently.” Another problem, he noted, was “explaining the drill to local communities, though some communities could oppose it, and yet another problem as seeking to implement appropriate levels of logistical support, such as transportation and storage of bullets, fuels and food.”

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