One thousand members of the Self-Defense Forces have been learning how to recapture territory in the face of enemy fire, and while the shoreline may be California's, the skills they are building could one day be used closer to home.

During the two-week Dawn Blitz joint drills in June, a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel launched a hovercraft that carried personnel and heavy weaponry onto a beach — an operation observed by American and Japanese officers — and elite rangers practiced a nighttime beach infiltration.

The exercises reflect the Liberal Democratic Party's interest in developing a force similar to the U.S. Marine Corps to counter what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says are China's attempts to forcibly alter the status quo in maritime disputes in the volatile East and South China seas. With the LDP poised to sweep the July 21 Upper House election, Abe, 58, will have a majority in both Diet chambers to push through legislation.