The Self-Defense Forces on Thursday partially opened to the media for the first time ongoing exercises aimed at being ready to protect Japanese citizens overseas.

The training is in line with the SDF's expanded role under Japan's new security legislation, which came into effect in March amid controversy, with critics fearing the changes could draw the defense forces into military action for the first time since World War II.

The exercises, which began Wednesday at the Ground Self-Defense Force's Somagahara training range in Gunma Prefecture, however, do not simulate situations where SDF personnel have to rescue Japanese nationals taken hostage.