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Among the three branches of the Self-Defense Forces, there has always been a clear hierarchy in prestige and influence: the Ground Self-Defense Force, the Maritime Self-Defense Force and then the Air Self-Defense Force.

During the Cold War, the GSDF rose in stature due to its sheer size and the country’s obsession with a Soviet amphibious invasion of Hokkaido. Over time, the GSDF has also managed to win the most fiscal clout. Yet due to the change in the nature of threats facing Japan, from missiles launched by North Korea to maritime incursions from China, the GSDF’s role and significance is being diminished. The recent creation of an Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARBD) under the command of the GSDF may be best understood from the lens of bureaucratic politics against this backdrop.

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