KAGOSHIMA – The Ground Self-Defense Force’s amphibious troop unit conducted its first joint exercise in Japan with U.S. Marines on Sunday in Kagoshima Prefecture, part of training for operations to retake control of enemy-held remote islands.
The drill, held on the island of Tanegashima, was aimed at strengthening coordination between the allies amid China’s growing maritime assertiveness around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islands are also claimed by China, where they are known as the Diaoyu.
At around 6 a.m., five boats carrying members of the GSDF’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade left the transport ship Osumi off Tanegashima and landed on the island. The drill was open to the media.
Japanese and U.S. forces also conducted training to regain control of an enemy-held airport on the island, with GSDF and U.S. military personnel deploying from an SDF CH-47 helicopter.
The members, carrying unloaded rifles, acted out an engagement with an assumed enemy.
Sunday’s exercise, involving around 220 GSDF members and 10 U.S. Marines, was the first amphibious drill conducted in Japan and follows one in Hawaii this summer. The joint drill is scheduled to run through Friday.
“We improved our ability to conduct amphibious missions and the exercise was satisfying,” Maj. Keisuke Komatsu, who commanded the Japanese amphibious unit that conducted the drill at the airport, said in a statement.
Speaking to reporters, Col. Mark Clingan, assistant division commander of the 3rd Marine Division, expressed hopes of deepening coordination with the Japanese amphibious unit.
The SDF’s amphibious brigade started off with about 2,100 members and is stationed at the GSDF Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.
Despite a recent thaw in Sino-Japanese relations, the two countries remain at odds over the Senkakus, with China routinely sending government vessels into the vicinity of the islets.