According to the website of Japan Times on January 28, a Japanese Self Defense Force unit called “Japanese marine corps” made headlines this week, revealing details of a secret agreement that Japan is said to have reached with the United States in 2015, which is about the deployment of amphibious troops to Schwab barracks in yeku, Okinawa.
The report said that although Tokyo firmly denied the report, the statement about the secret agreement drew attention to Japan’s amphibious rapid deployment brigade, which is the first responder in the future conflict around Japan’s outlying islands.
What is this brigade and what is it for?
The report points out that the amphibious rapid deployment brigade was established in March 2018 and is subordinate to the land self defense force. This force is designed to respond to the security situation that requires faster mobilization of land, sea and air forces at the national level. When the brigade was established, it had 2100 personnel, including the Western Front infantry regiment, which was set up in 2002 to take charge of amphibious operations. The main responsibility of the brigade is to defend any occupied island.
According to the report, this is a particularly arduous task for Japan. In a 2018 RAND study on amphibious challenges funded by the Japanese government, retired general Koichiro Masaki of the land self defense force pointed out that Japan has about 30000 kilometers of coastline around a total of nearly 6900 islands it must defend. These include 2852 remote islands, of which nearly 2700 are uninhabited.
These remote islands extend from Hokkaido to Okinawa, but many are located either southwest of Kagoshima Prefecture or southwest of Okinawa’s main island. The brigade is part of a larger strategy of the land self defense force, which aims to strengthen its presence in the southwest Islands (southwest of Kyushu).
Where is the brigade stationed and what departments are it composed of?
According to the report, the brigade is headquartered in Xiangpu barracks near Sasebo in Nagasaki county. The Maritime Self Defense Force and the US Navy have bases in Sasebo. Some of the brigade’s troops are still stationed in the front barracks of Nagasaki Prefecture and two other barracks of Dafan Prefecture, Jiuzhu and tangbuyuan.
It consists of two amphibious regiments, one assault battalion with aav-7 amphibious assault vehicles for beach landing, one artillery battalion, one reconnaissance company, one signal company, one engineer company and one logistics support battalion.
Is this brigade equivalent to the Japanese version of the US Marine Corps?
According to the report, there are some similarities in their combat roles for their own countries. As outlined by Japan’s defense ministry in 2013, the brigade’s goal is to “quickly land, recapture and defend any remote island that may be invaded.”. They will arrive on the island first, and the conventional forces of the land, sea and air self defense forces will arrive later.
The report points out that this is the same as some core roles played by the US Marine Corps for the United States. However, unlike the U.S. Marine Corps, the Japanese amphibious brigade is not an expeditionary force. This means that its purpose is only to defend Japanese territory and will not be deployed to other countries. The Japanese government may send it to other countries for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, but it will not use it for offensive purposes.
The report also pointed out that more importantly, the U.S. Marine Corps can rely on its own strength to carry out operations on land, sea and air, while Japan’s amphibious brigade must work closely with the Maritime Self Defense Force and the air self defense force to play an effective role on land, sea and air.
&Is there any cooperation between the US military and the brigade?
Reported that the brigade and the U.S. military now hold regular joint training exercises. In January and February 2020, a regiment of the brigade participated in a training exercise called “iron fist 2020” in California for the first time together with the U.S. Marine Corps.
It is reported that in November 2020, the U.S. Marine Corps and the brigade also held a training exercise called “sword” at woshedao, Kagoshima county.
The exercise simulated the simultaneous landing of U.S. and Japanese forces on a remote occupied island. The exercises include seizing the threatened territory, defending the island area and establishing forward bases.
In December 2020, the brigade participated in another joint exercise called “yamasakura 79”, which focused on command and control training, with the aim of improving the coordination ability between the US Marine Corps and the brigade. The next training is expected to further focus on strengthening the communication and cooperation between the brigade and the US military, especially the Marine Corps.