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Number of troops sent in massive amphibious drill marks ‘first time since the second world war’
Japan’s defence ministry said 4,000 troops have begun staging a massive military drill involving 15 naval ships in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) in the “first time since the second world war”.
In a joint drill with US forces, the naval vessels are training on a new amphibious assault warfare ship and conducting a massive training manoeuvre which might include rescuing troops lost in the war’s fog.
Experts say the drill is being staged to test the anti-satellite capabilities of the vessels as an attack on Japan’s satellites would deter them from defending bases in South Korea and the United States.
On Saturday the Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) sent early warning satellites from Akita Prefecture in northern Japan to monitor missile launches.
It is the first time the JASDF has launched its early warning satellites from Akita, where the air force’s psychological warfare centre is located.
Japan sent unarmed ballistic missiles as part of “flyover” exercises for the surveillance satellites. Japan has also strengthened its early warning radar, sending earth observation satellites to the Pacific last year.
The four JASDF air force aerial reconnaissance planes will fly along the Japanese coastline before moving over the Pacific for the anti-missile reconnaissance flights, the ministry said.
The move is part of Japanese defence chief Itsunori Onodera’s proposal to strengthen the military’s early warning capabilities.
He also wants the Japanese military to contribute more to the global fight against terrorism, saying there is a possibility that Japanese citizens could be involved in terrorist attacks abroad.
Onodera says Japan’s security framework needs to be upgraded to meet evolving global risks, including from terrorism.
“First and foremost, we have to support Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) in order to enhance their capability to conduct overseas operations,” he said in a speech to parliament.
Japan’s Naha navy base in Okinawa has frequently been the site of piracy, with Somali pirates twice storming the Yago Yago floating platform in October 2011 and October 2017, killing six people and leaving 16 injured.
The Naha base has been designated for increased deployment as part of the country’s security cooperation with the US.
Last week, in the first major security measures since coming to power in December 2017, Onodera asked parliament to approve 11,741 SDF personnel for overseas missions for one year.
Onodera made the request despite the fact that the Japan Self Defence Forces spends much of its budget for manpower training for personnel assigned for domestic missions and have said the country is under pressure to keep a smaller military.
The request was approved in a 54-0 vote.
Onodera has pledged to increase Japan’s involvement overseas. He has also urged Japan to contribute more to the global fight against terrorism, expressing concern that some Japanese citizens might be involved in terrorist attacks abroad.
In May, Onodera recommended changing the rules that govern security cooperation with the US to enable Japan to participate more fully, a first step in a drawn-out process.