Japan has activated its first marine unit since World War II, in what has been declared as a means of “defense of our islands.”
“Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate,” said Japan’s Vice Defense Minister Tomohiro Yamamoto during a speech on Saturday.
In a ceremony held at a military base near Sasebo on the southwest island of Kyushu, about 1,500 members of the so-called Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) wearing camouflage lined up outside in cold, windy weather.
The marine brigade is the latest component of an emerging naval force that includes helicopter carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey tilt-rotor troop carriers, and amphibious assault vehicles.
The military unit conducted a 20-minute mock public drill, recapturing a remote island from mock enemy forces.
China and Japan dispute territory in the East China Sea, claiming sovereignty over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Japan accuses China of pushing to extend its military influence in the East China Sea and the western Pacific.
The activation of the 2,100-strong ARDB brings Japan a step closer to establishing a force capable of planning and executing naval military operations far from its home base.
The development comes even though Japan renounced the right to wage offensive military operation in its post-World War II constitution, making the formation of the naval brigade controversial.
Separately, Reuters cited anonymous sources as saying that Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) may acquire small amphibious ships of up to 100 meters in length to transport troops and equipment between islands and from ship to shore. Japanese ground forces have not operated their own ships since the Second World War.
“The idea is to bring forces and gear on large ships to the main Okinawa island and then disperse them to other islands on smaller vessels,” said one of the source.