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Japan Activates First Marines Since WW2

Soldiers of Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, on the southwest island of Kyushu, Japan April 7Soldiers of Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, on the southwest island of Kyushu, Japan April 7

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, Reuters reported.

“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.

China, which dominates the South China Sea, is outpacing Japan in defense spending. In 2018, Beijing which claims a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo, will spend 1.11 trillion yuan ($176.56 billion) on its armed forces, more than three times as much as Japan.

The activation of the 2,100 strong ARDB takes Japan a step closer to creating a force similar to a US Marine Expeditionary Unit able to plan and execute operations at sea far from its home base.

Japanese Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) also wants to acquire F-35Bs to operate from its Izumo and Ise helicopter carriers, or from islands along the East China Sea, sources have told Reuters.

The United States last month deployed its F-35Bs for their first at-sea operations aboard the USS Wasp amphibious assault ship, which is based in Sasebo. The Kyushu port is also home to Japan’s Ise and close to the ARDB’s base.

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