The Defense Ministry plans to create a new post of joint forces commander just under the joint staff chief for the Self-Defense Forces, ministry sources said Thursday.
The joint commander will take over SDF command duties from the joint staff chief who has become busy with addressing China’s territorial claims to the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands and North Korean missile launch threats, they said.
The SDF have remained alert to Chinese government ship operations around the Senkakus in the East China Sea since last year, as well as North Korea’s repeated threats to fire missiles.
Concerned about continuing tensions with China and North Korea, uniformed SDF officers have strongly called for creating the new post, they said.
The joint staff chief at the top of the SDF organization now serves as an expert assistant to the defense minister and as the commander of the ground, maritime and air forces.
If the separate joint commander is named to undertake the SDF command duties, the joint staff chief may focus on assisting the defense minister.
The joint commander could be called central commander or a new deputy joint staff chief could be appointed for the command duties, the sources said.