Japan marks 70 years since the establishment of the Self-Defense Forces on Monday, as the country’s defense establishment grapples with dramatic policy shifts and faces down challenges ranging from recruitment to rising Chinese military assertiveness.

In a statement released on the anniversary of the creation of the SDF and Defense Agency — the precursor to the current Defense Ministry — defense chief Minoru Kihara pledged to continue working to build trust in the ostensibly pacifist country’s armed forces amid “the most severe and complicated security environment of the postwar era.”

“As minister of defense, I am determined to work together with the members of our armed forces so that we can continue to live up to the trust and expectations of the people,” Kihara said Monday.