Around 1,500 members of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) wearing camouflage lined up at a military base near Sasebo on the southwest island of Kyushu.
“Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate,” Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defense minister.
Japan activated its first marine unit since World War Two. The purpose is to train to counter invaders occupying Japanese islands along the border of the East China Sea.
The troops conducted a half hour mock public exercise recapturing a remote island from invaders including the formation of the Japanese marine brigade.
The brigade is the latest element of a growing marine force that includes helicopter carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey troop carriers and amphibious assault vehicles. All meant to deter China.
The activation of the 2,100 strong ARDB takes Japan is similar to a U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) that can plan and execute operations at sea.
“They’ve already demonstrated the ability to put together an ad hoc MEU. But to have a solid, standing MEU capability requires concerted effort,” Grant Newsham, a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.
The GSDF may also acquire amphibious ships up to a 100 meters long to transport troops and equipment between islands and from ship to shore.
China, which controls the South China Sea, is outpacing Japan in defense spending. This year, Beijing which claims a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea controlled by Japan will spend $176.56 billion on its armed forces, more than three times as much as Japan which cost $46 billion.