The Ground Self-Defense Force has marked a historic milestone with the launch of its first dedicated amphibious brigade, a type of unit that was long deemed too offensive to possess under Japan's postwar defensive security policy.

"Our goal is to become the world's top-class amphibious operation unit," Maj. Gen. Shinichi Aoki, who leads the brigade, said at a news conference Saturday following a ceremony to mark the launch of the unit, which will be based in the port city of Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.

The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps, is a fledgling unit that will face many challenges as it builds toward combat readiness to defend Japan's remote islands in the face of an increasingly assertive China.