Japan to boost defense in response to PLA drills in West Pacific

4:20:00 AM
TOKYO, -- The Japanese government has officially activated plans to strengthen the defensive capabilities of the southwestern regions of the country in response to a large scale naval exercise conducted by the People's Liberation Army Navy in the West Pacific last month, reports Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun.

To strengthen island defense, the Jan. 4 report said, Tokyo plans to make the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's new Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) part of its core strength and will deploy amphibious vehicles and troops to Sasebo of Nagasaki prefecture in the southwest of the country. According to the Japanese government's strategy, the ARDB, which is modeled on the US Marines Corps, will assume the important role of "recapturing enemy-occupied islands" by 2018.

Meanwhile, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force will boost the total number of fighter jets at its base in Naha, the capital of Japan's southermost Okinawa prefecture, to 40, including doubling its F-15 fighter fleet from one to two, as well as increase personnel by about 450, the report said.

With Okinawa and the southern main island of Kyushu set to become the forefront of the country's "homeland defense," Japan will add at least 4,000 self-defense officials to the two regions, the report added.

Apart from Okinawa island, the Japanese government will also install a military presence on four neighboring offshort islands in the prefecture. In particular, the island of Yonaguni will be assigned a coastal monitoring force of about 150 people this year, while the islands of Miyako, Ishigaki and Amami Oshima will be assigned around 350 troops each.

The moves are said to be in response to a major maritime drill conducted by the the PLA Navy in the West Pacific last month. At least 15 surface ships and multiple fighter jets from the PLA's three major fleets participated in the drills, with vessels passing through the narrow Osumikaikyo Strait southwest of Japan as well as the Kuril Islands and the La Perouse Strait in the north. Some commentators suggested that the exercise appeared to be the PLA strategizing how it would sandwich Japan from the north and south in the event of a military conflict.

The tit-for-that has been an ongoing theme between China and Japan over the last few years, as the two countries continue to jostle for the upper hand in their territorial dispute over the Diaoyutai islands(Diaoyu to China, Senkaku to Japan) in the East China Sea.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force LST-4001 Osumi during exhibition training.


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