To strengthen protection of Japan’s outlying islands, the Defense Ministry will set up a preparatory force next fiscal year that will eventually become a Japanese version of the U.S. Marines, sources said.
The new force will be tasked with making amphibious assaults to take back Japanese islands that have been invaded by foreign militaries.
The preparatory force will be placed under the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Western Army, which is in charge of defending Kyushu and Okinawa Prefecture, the sources said.
The Western Army’s defense covers the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the center of a territorial dispute with China.
Japan’s amphibious force will likely be an expansion of the Western Army’s Infantry Regiment, which has been the core unit in charge of defending outlying islands and has conducted joint training drills with the U.S. Marines for that purpose.
The move comes at a time when China is expanding its military spending and continues to make maritime advances.
Japan’s Defense Ministry will also spend more on its amphibious force functions.
The ministry plans to purchase four AAV-7 (Amphibious Assault Vehicle 7), which are also used by the U.S. Marines, in the current fiscal year, and buy two variant types of the AAV-7 in the next fiscal year.
All six vehicles will be deployed to the preparatory force for test-operations before the formation of the actual amphibious force.
The Defense Ministry plans to name Lt. Gen. Koichiro Bansho as commander of the Western Army as of Aug. 22. Bansho is currently deputy head of the Ground Staff Office, where he has headed a group conducting research on amphibious force functions in preparation for the creation of a Marines-like unit in the GSDF.
In addition to budgetary requests for the AAV-7 vehicles, the Defense Ministry plans to seek a major increase in research spending for the SDF’s early acquisition of the Osprey transport aircraft used by the U.S. Marines. In the current fiscal year budget, research spending was 8 million yen ($80,000) for that purpose.
The total amount included in the Defense Ministry’s budget request is expected to be 4.89 trillion yen, a 2.9-percent jump from the initial amount in the current fiscal year budget for the second straight year of increased spending.
Part of the reason for the increase is rising equipment costs due to a weaker yen.
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