To contend with China, Japan activates elite marine unit, the first since WWII

An exercise simulating the recapture of a small island was carried out by the brigade on April 7 near Sasebo,Kyushu

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JP Vice Defense Minister Tomohiro Yamamoto and Marine Brigade leader Shinichi Aoki (Image from Sasebo City Gov.)

JP Vice Defense Minister Tomohiro Yamamoto and Marine Brigade leader Shinichi Aoki (Image from Sasebo City Gov.)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On Saturday April 7, the Japanese government officially placed a unit of elite marines from its Ground Self Defense Force (SDF) on active duty, the first time such a unit has been activated since World War Two.

On April 7, 1,500 members of the 2,100-strong Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) were assembled for a public demonstration at a military base near Sasebo on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.

The ARDB conducted a 20 minute exercise simulating the recapture of a small island from potential invaders.

The unit will be on duty and ready for rapid deployment to smaller islands the East China Sea, like the Diaoyutai island chain (Jp. Senkaku), which Japan sees as key territory that is increasingly under threat from Chinese military encroachment.

Tomohiro Yamamoto, Japan’s Vice Defense Minister was quoted by Reuters as saying “Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate.”

In light of the increased military activity and spending by Beijing, Japan feels it necessary to bolster its security infrastructure, especially across its scattered territories in the East China Sea.

Last week, Japan also announced the planned installation of a new radar system in the western Pacific; somewhere along the Osagawara island chain, in anticipation of future Chinese naval activity.

According to the report from Reuters, Japan is taking several actions, like acquiring amphibious ships for troop transport, and F-35B jets with vertical takeoff capabilities, which could potentially operate from the SDF Izumo and Ise helicopter carriers.

The most recent activation of the ARDB is the latest move in Japan’s revamp of its military readiness capabilities, which many criticize as being in contravention of Article 9 of Japan’s constitution, forbidding a standing military.

However, Prime Minister Abe and his supporters in the country’s parliament have also been preparing to propose an amendment to Article 9, which would legally permit a “National Defense Army,” while still rejecting war as a sovereign right of the nation, as stipulated by the first point of the Article.