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SECURITY > Self-Defense Forces

Editorial: Boost SDF emergency capability by using new Ground Central Command

  • June 7, 2017
  • , The Japan News , 8:05 p.m.
  • English Press

It is necessary to steadily reinforce arrangements maintained by the Self-Defense Forces so they can readily cope with emergencies and large-scale disasters.


The revised Self-Defense Forces Law has been enacted. Consequently, a new SDF apparatus, called the “Ground Central Command” (GCC), will be established by the end of next March, to assume centralized command of Ground Self-Defense Force troops nationwide.


The SDF’s two other arms possess similar organizations — the Self-Defense Fleet at the Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the Air Defense Command at the Air Self-Defense Force. These commanding apparatuses have an important role to play in carrying out integrated operations involving units from the SDF’s three arms: the GSDF, MSDF and ASDF. With the launch of the GCC, it will be necessary for the three SDF arms to cooperate even more closely.


It is indispensable to swiftly and flexibly move SDF corps during operations aimed at defending remote islands and coping with major disasters, both duties mainly conducted by the GSDF.


In the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, a command center for units tasked with carrying out integrated missions was established at the GSDF’s Northeastern Army Headquarters in Sendai, with a record number of more than 100,000 SDF personnel engaged in rescuing and assisting quake-hit victims.


Currently, the operation of the five GSDF district armies in the nation is commanded by the defense minister through the chief of the Joint Staff. From now on, the GCC commander will direct the five district armies, acting on orders issued by the Joint Staff chief.


In the event of a major disaster such as an earthquake originating in the Nankai Trough, it will be necessary to operate SDF units in a manner that can cover an even more expansive area. The GCC setup has an important role to play in that process. The chain of command to be maintained in the task must be carefully considered so effective SDF activities will be made possible.


Shore up remote island defenses


The centerpiece of the GCC scheme is to create an amphibious rapid deployment brigade. The corps comprises as many as 2,000 personnel tasked with landing and recapture operations if any isolated island is invaded. Its headquarters is to be established in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. The GSDF is also beginning to procure special equipment such as amphibious vehicles.


It will be essential to repeatedly hold joint drills with the U.S. Marine Corps, thereby improving the GCC’s capabilities.


Efforts should also be made to carry out a plan to deploy GSDF personnel on the less closely guarded Nansei Islands without delay. The deployment of an observation unit on Yonagunijima island in fiscal 2015 will be followed by similar arrangements. The Defense Ministry will seek to deploy patrol and missile units on Miyakojima and Amami-Oshima islands by the end of fiscal 2018, while also placing a unit of troops on Ishigakijima island later.


Some people on Miyakojima and Ishigakijima are opposed to these plans. The Defense Ministry should make all necessary explanations to local residents and gain their understanding.


Under the revised SDF law, the ASDF’s Southwestern Composite Air Division in Okinawa Prefecture will be upgraded to district army.


In fiscal 2016, ASDF planes were scrambled a record 1,168 times — mostly in reaction to Chinese aircraft flying in areas surrounding Okinawa Prefecture. It is reasonable to make necessary arrangements that may include an increase in the number of ASDF fighter planes in the future.


In mid-May, government ships from China intruded in Japanese territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands, and ASDF fighters were scrambled when what appeared to be a drone flew in that area. It is necessary for the SDF to examine pertinent matters with the Japan Coast Guard and related organizations, including how to appropriately deal with a new form of airspace incursion.

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