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A joint military exercise between the Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps kicked off Thursday at the GSDF Kirishima Training Area on the border of Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures.

It is the first time for the GSDF to conduct a ground exercise with U.S. Marines in southern Kyushu. The nine-day exercise, to include artillery and comprehensive drills at the Oyanobara Training Area in Kumamoto Prefecture, is aimed at beefing up the solidarity between the two forces in carrying out joint operations under separate command systems, according to the GSDF.

Residents near the training sites, however, are lodging protests over the exercise with the United States, citing the possibility that the drills might lead to a perpetual use by the U.S. forces of the training areas. Participating in the exercise are about 800 members of the GSDF’s 24th Infantry regiment based in Miyazaki Prefecture and some 600 soldiers from the 3rd Marine Division stationed in Okinawa.

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