Japan and the United States will conduct a drill to recapture an island occupied by enemy forces in what would be a warning to China, which has taken a hard-line stance over the disputed Senkaku Islands.
The drill, the first of its kind in Japan, will be held on Irisunajima Island in Okinawa Prefecture during the latter half of a broader joint exercise scheduled for Nov. 5-16, sources said.
The Ground Self-Defense Force’s Western Army Infantry Regiment, based in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and the U.S. Marine Corps’ 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Okinawa Prefecture, will take part.
Uninhabited Irisunajima Island hosts the U.S. Air Force’s Idesunajima Range.
The training to retake an occupied island follows a similar amphibious exercise the GSDF and the Marine Corps conducted in Guam in September.
The Defense Ministry has been trying to enhance its capability to defend the Nansei Islands, including Okinawa Prefecture, as a counterbalance to China’s maritime expansion.
A senior ministry official said the training had been planned before Japan put three of the Senkaku Islands under state ownership in September, setting off China’s strong protests.
However, the drill will coincide with the National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which opens on Nov. 8.
The Japanese and U.S. governments will carefully decide the types of operations to be included in the drill, as well as the scope of activities to be shown to the media, the sources said.
The two countries started conducting joint integrated military exercises in 1986. The one scheduled for November will be the 11th involving the deployment of armed forces.
The drill will be held around Japan, mainly in Kyushu and the Nansei Islands. The SDF and United States Forces Japan will conduct training for maritime and air operations, responses to ballistic missiles and transportation of personnel and materials.
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