(Okinawa Times: March 29, 2016 – p. 2)
Despite efforts by the past governments to ban the exercise of collective self-defense, the security legislation finally came into force on March 29, opening the door for Japan to engage in collective self-defense. This expands the scope of logistical support the Self-Defense Forces can extend to the U.S. military and accelerates preparations for integrated operations between the SDF and the U.S. forces from peacetime. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acclaims the legislation as “the best,” but “joint drills,” in which SDF personnel are taking training courses inside U.S. military facilities, are on the rise. There is no doubt that the military burden on base-hosting local communities in Okinawa will grow.
According to the Ministry of Defense, ground, maritime and air units of the SDF underwent a total of 259 training sessions, including on-site exercises and lectures, inside Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab, and other U.S. military facilities over the six years through fiscal 2014.
The GSDF explains that its personnel had “training” in U.S. military facilities and emphasizes that though they embarked in U.S Marines amphibious vehicles, they did not operate these and learned skills from the back seat.
But in August 2015, a U.S. Army Special Force helicopter with GSDF personnel on board failed to make a landing off Uruma. Later it was found that those GSDF personnel belong to the GSDF’s Central Readiness Force, which is responsible for dealing with terrorist attacks and guerrillas.
The MOD denies the GSDF personnel were participating in a “drill,” but the accident happened during a demonstration of special operation capabilities. This effectively proves that the SDF was involved in a drill. The local residents were not informed that SDF took part in this drill. If the accident had not happened, the fact that there was a drill would never have been revealed.
It has also come to light that the MSDF and the U.S. Marines Corps have built a cutting-edge sound surveillance system for submarines inside the White Beach area in Uruma and have been jointly operating it to counter China’s growing naval might.
The secrecy law, which came into force ahead of the security legislation, may add to the confidentiality of military related information down the road. This suggests that highly dangerous drills may take place behind the scenes in proximity to residential areas.
It was also learned from a document the MOD compiled in 2012 that a plan had been underway to station GSDF personnel at Camp Schwab, Camp Hansen and other U.S. military bases. The plan also designated 13 facilities, including the auxiliary airfield on Ie Island, and two nearby bodies of water as candidate sites for joint use. Various plans are indeed taking shape behind the scenes to accelerate integrated military operations.
Japan will be put at a greater risk of involvement in a U.S.-led war, as it will closely work with the U.S. for integrated military operations. The more drills take place inside the U.S. bases, the heavier the local burden will become. (Slightly abridged)