(From USNI News)
By Megan Eckstein
Japan is boosting its amphibious and coastal defense capabilities, shifting security personnel to outer islands and converting ground forces into amphibious units capable of defending those islands from attack.
The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) is increasing its amphibious capability with an eye on its southwestern-most islands – past Okinawa, all the way to its farthest inhabited island of Yonaguni, which sits closer to mainland China than it does to Okinawa. With only two Japan Air Self-Defense Force radar sites between Okinawa and Yonaguni, the Japanese ground force has taken a renewed interest in protecting these islands, Col. Masashi Yamamoto, military attaché at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, said last week at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.
Yamamoto said that four weeks ago the JGSDF activated a coast observation unit on Yonaguni for the first time since World War II. He told USNI News after the event that future coastal security units would be set up in the southwestern islands, pulling troops from other parts of the country to focus on about 200 islands as far as 680 miles from mainland Japan.
Additionally, an infantry regiment in the Western Army is being converted to an amphibious regiment – one of two that will create the first amphibious brigade by March 2018. Whereas the infantry regiment is designed to deploy to an island and protect it from foreign invasion, the amphibious regiment would have the capability to move from island to island, landing in contested environments if an enemy – specifically China, though Yamamoto did not single the country out – were to take Japanese territory.
The amphibious force will be housed in the JGSDF rather than the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) – whereas the U.S. Marine Corps resides within the Navy instead of the Army – and the two Japanese forces are in the beginning stages of learning how to operate together. Read more