Japan chief: Ground Self-Defense Force will be overhauled

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Japan will "drastically" reform its ground forces into a much more mobile entity capable of defending that nation’s remotest islands.

As it stands right now, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force – as the country’s post-war army is known – is the smallest of that nation’s forces.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has had a pacifist constitution and has been reluctant to flex its military muscles.

However, Asia-Pacific region has gained importance as the economic fortunes of the region have risen – which has caused rising tensions.

Though he did not mention the People’s Republic of China by name, Gen. Kiyofumi Iwata, chief of staff, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, speaking before an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s 2014 Annual Meeting and Exposition, said, "Some countries ignore the law" and establish air defense identification zones in international airspace – as China did last year.

Such incidents have caused Japan to rethink its defense posture – a "turning point in defense and security policy" as Iwata put it while speaking at an AUSA Contemporary Military Forum titled "Asia-Pacific Rebalance – Pacific Pathways and Beyond.".

As a direct result of those changing policies, Japan will radically overhaul its ground forces.

Instead of heavy mechanized forces designed to defend the core Japanese mainland, there would be "drastic reform."

The aim would be to transform the Japanese army into a force capable of defending the country’s outlying territories and islands from attack, Iwata said.

Instead of strategically immobile armored forces, the focus would be on highly mobile combat brigades and divisions.

There would also be a renewed focus on amphibious operations – similar to the U.S. Marine Corps, Iwata said.

The idea would be to foster a "proactive contribution to peace," he added.