Japan’s defence ministry denies plans to station Japanese marines at US base in Okinawa

Kyodo notes that for Japan, the deployment of such forces on Okinawa is of strategic importance

The Defense Ministry of Japan does not intend to deploy a self-defense force amphibious unit at the U.S. Marine base Camp Shwab in northeast Okinawa. This was announced by the head of the ministry, Nobuo Kishi, on Tuesday.

“We are not considering deployment by sharing [Camp Shwab base]”, –  Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.

On Monday, the agency reported that Washington and Tokyo had allegedly reached a related secret agreement in 2015. It is noted that the agreement was reached without the knowledge of Japanese Ministry of Defence personnel, which violates the country’s current principles of civilian control. In the end, the deployment plan was never implemented, but Japan’s Self-Defence Forces leadership has not abandoned it.

Military leaders in both countries, as Kyodo notes, continue to believe that Camp Shwab would be an ideal place to deploy a Japanese amphibious unit modelled on the US Marines. This would allow for more frequent joint exercises and amphibious training. For Japan, the deployment of such a force on Okinawa is also of strategic importance given the territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea.

The Mobile Amphibious Force was formed in Japan in April 2018. The two regiments, which are now stationed in Nagasaki in the south-west of the country, include around 1,300 fighters. Their main task should be defence as well as retaking remote islands between Kyushu and Taiwan in case they are captured by a possible enemy. The unit will expand to nearly 2,000 men over the next few years, along with 17 MV-22 Osprey convertible jets and more than 50 amphibious vehicles.

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