China’s Ascent may have Driven Japan to Refocus on Military Improvements

Japanese honor guard
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he receives a military Guard of Honour at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ahead of bilateral talks in London, Britain January 10, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Pool)

Japan is not allowing itself to come in last in the military realm as it has recently capitalized on modernization within its air and Maritime Self Defense Forces.

The country has finally produced its first aircraft carrier in decades. The last time Japan owned a carrier was during World War II. Japan has also been training for a potential assault in hopes of reclaiming the Senkaku Islands.

In a recent report, The Military Times noted that China may have had a hand in the recent spur of movements from the Japanese military. Most officials have refused to answer questions about the sudden surge in improvements but the outlet quoted a parliament member mentioning China as a triggering factor.

Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Defense under the Liberal Democratic Party, Keitaro Ohno reportedly said, "Actually this trigger ... to be straight out [is] China. The expansion of China. I think it's clear."

Keitaro further explained that Japan is not looking for a war against China. Instead, he commented that the new carrier won't be used unless the militia is forced to face off with competitors in the Pacific Ocean.

China has been purchasing and creating new vessels over the past few years and in response, Japan has placed a second squadron in Naha Airport. The purpose is to quickly defend the country in case the Japanese Air Defense Identification Zone gets attacked. Still, both sides have not confirmed a military conflict.

Aside from the new carrier, Japan is also looking to add over 3,000 troops to its 2,100-man militia. Commander of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, Maj. Gen. Shinichi Aoki confirmed that the military aims to complete training sometime March.

The Orange County Register added that Japanese Defense Force soldiers have kicked off air support training with Marines and sailors under the 1st Marine Regiment of Camp Pendleton. The exercises include live-fire training, mortar and artillery operations, and more.

Camp Pendleton, San Clemente Island, and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms will be hosting the joint training exercises that will end February 15. For the first time in 13 years, Japan has allowed the largest number of its forces to take part in the training, dubbed as Exercise Iron Fist.

This year's exercise spurs another notable first for the Japanese force. It will be using the country's own Amphibious Assault Vehicles as it cooperates with the U.S. Marine Corps in training for future amphibious operations.

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