The Ground Self-Defense Force will begin joint exercises with the National Police Agency to help prepare the GSDF for terrorist attacks that are beyond the capabilities of the police.

The joint exercise, scheduled for Nov. 18, will be the first of its kind conducted under a bilateral emergency-cooperation agreement on maintaining public order. The agreement was revised for the first time in 46 years in December 2000.

The revisions shift the target of the accord from domestic riots and radical demonstrations to terrorism and guerrilla attacks by armed agents.

“We never imagined that such an exercise would really be possible until recently,” one senior GSDF official said. He added that the exercise was made possible through the leadership of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has emphasized the need for closer cooperation between the SDF and police organizations since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

In the proposed exercise, the GSDF’s Northern Army and the Hokkaido Prefectural Police will set up a command post at Hokkaido police headquarters. Some 20 officials from each organization will participate, according to the Defense Agency.

In a series of mock crises, including the landing of armed agents and possible attacks on nuclear facilities, the police and the GSDF will practice cooperation in communications, searching for enemy agents, transporting personnel, providing equipment and fighting the armed forces.

“The exercise is the first of its kind and will be a very basic one,” the senior GSDF official said.

The exercise will not, however, touch upon the sensitive issue of when the central government will actually decide to deploy the SDF.

Other GSDF regional armies are also planning to hold similar joint exercises with local police forces, according to Defense Agency officials.

After completing command post exercises, the agency hopes to hold field training exercises, they added.

In addition to defense against a foreign military attack, the SDF Law allows the prime minister to mobilize the SDF whenever “public order cannot be maintained by the general police force.”

However, since the clause was originally intended to respond to violent demonstrations by citizens and laborers, preparations for such mobilizations have long been considered taboo by defense authorities. Some have claimed that such mobilizations are tantamount to “turning guns against one’s own people.”

As a result, the GSDF has not carried out exercises since the 1960s, they said.

The public sense of crisis over non-war emergencies was heightened, however, after the 1995 sarin attack on Tokyo’s subway system by the Aum Shinrikyo cult and a series of alleged intrusions into Japanese waters by North Korean spy ships. These have allowed the SDF to place greater emphasis on dealing with such situations, observers said.

Antiterrorist and antiguerrilla activities are also important to the future of the 146,000-member GSDF, whose raison d’etre has been called into question since the end of the Cold War.

For the first time, the GSDF recently sent an infantry regiment to Hawaii for an urban warfare joint exercise with the U.S. Army against guerrilla forces.

Facilities to be used for the exercises are under construction at the GSDF’s Higashi Fuji Training Camp in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The GSDF plans to set up a special antiguerrilla force, consisting of some 300 elite troops, in the next fiscal year.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.