SASEBO/TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) – Nobuhiro Kubo and Tim Kelly report: Japan on Saturday activated its first marine unit since World War Two trained to counter invaders occupying Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea that Tokyo fears are vulnerable to attack by China.
In a ceremony held at a military base near Sasebo on the southwest island of Kyushu, about 1,500 members of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) wearing camouflage lined up outside amid cold, windy weather.
“Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate,” Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defense minister, said in a speech.
The troops conducted a 20-minute mock public exercise recapturing a remote island from invaders.
The formation of the Japanese marine brigade is controversial because amphibious units can project military force and could, critics warn, be used to threaten Japan’s neighbors. In its post World War Two constitution Japan renounced the right to wage war.
The brigade is the latest component of a growing marine force that includes helicopter carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey tilt-rotor troop carriers and amphibious assault vehicles, meant to deter China as it pushes for easier access to the Western Pacific.
China, which dominates the South China Sea, is outpacing Japan in defense spending … (read more)