(Sentaku: November 2015 – p. 11)
In the personnel changes for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) this summer, two generals of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) who were regarded as candidates for the next GSDF Chief of Staff, voluntarily retired: Gen. Koichiro Bansho, the former Commanding General of Western Army, and Gen. Koichi Isobe, the former Commanding General of Eastern Army. The current GSDF Chief of Staff Gen. Kiyofumi Iwata will continue working. This personnel action apparently confirms that Gen. Iwata will become the next Chief of Staff, Joint Staff. The current Joint Staff Chief Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano is from the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF), so an official from the GSDF will take the post next.
There is speculation that Gen. Iwata will have Gen. Toshiya Okabe, Commanding General of Northern Army, take over his post as GSDF Chief of Staff (according to a GSDF officer). Gen Iwata has trained Gen Okabe from the beginning of his career.
In the personnel action this time, according to a Defense Ministry official, “Gen. Iwata, who is known to be calculating, took advantage of the rivalry between the two candidates [Gen. Bansho and Gen. Isobe].” If Defense Minister Gen Nakatani had appointed Gen. Bansho, who has been close to Nakatani since their school days, as the next GSDF Chief of Staff, Nakatani would have been criticized for favoritism. On the other hand, If Nakatani had appointed Gen. Isobe, it would have left hard feelings.
In the meantime, Gen. Isobe is expected to succeed Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobushige Takamizawa. Officials of both the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) and the MSDF are concerned that this will result in “the GSDF exercising greater influence.”