Japan and the United States began a major joint military exercise in southern Japan on Thursday, as the allies aimed to increase preparedness in response to China’s growing assertiveness and North Korea’s stepped-up missile launches.
The biennial Raiden exercise kicked off at a Japanese air base in southern Japan and has been held at various other locations in and around Japan. They will run until November 19th.
About 26,000 Japanese troops and 10,000 U.S. troops, along with 30 ships and 370 aircraft from both sides, participated in the exercise, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry. Australia, the UK and Canada will also take part in some of the exercises, it said.
The joint field training program, including amphibious landing exercises, is being conducted on remote islands in Japan’s southwest, including Tokunoshima, Amami and Tsuta, as Japan has been strengthening its defenses in the region amid growing tensions with China .
China has strengthened its claim to almost the entire South China Sea by building artificial islands with military installations and airports. Beijing has also claimed a series of islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan and has stepped up military harassment of self-governing Taiwan, which it says is part of China and will be annexed by force if necessary.
The joint exercise also comes on the heels of North Korea’s intensified missile launches, which have fired more than 30 this year, including one that fell into waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Wednesday. Last month, an intercontinental ballistic missile flew over northern Japan.
Citing the deteriorating security situation in the region, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged to significantly increase Japan’s military capabilities and potentially allow pre-emptive strike capabilities to strike enemy missile launch sites from a distance. These plans are expected to be incorporated into the revised National Security Strategy and mid- to long-term defense guidance later this year.
The move to develop strike capabilities is a major shift in Japan’s principles of self-defense, even as the country has rapidly expanded the role and capabilities of its military over the past decade to work more closely with the United States and other partners in the region and Europe.
U.S. military in Japan said in a statement on Thursday that exercises like Raiden provide Japanese and U.S. militaries with the opportunity to jointly train in multiple mission domains in realistic scenarios to enhance readiness, interoperability and Build a credible deterrent.”
Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press
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