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U.S. marines to participate in largest-ever joint exercise with Japan

About 2,000 U.S. marines will participate in a Japan-U.S. joint exercise with the Ground Self-Defense Force scheduled for August in Hokkaido, Newspaper Akahata learned on July 29. The size of the exercise will be the largest of this type. With the U.S. strategy that shifted focus to Asia since December 2011 and the war legislation enforced by the Japanese government in September 2015, the whole of Japan has become a base for the U.S. forces’ deployment and exercises.


The “Northern Viper” exercise is scheduled from August 10 to 28 at three exercise ranges including the Hokkaido exercise range (covering Sapporo, Kitahiroshima, Eniwa and Chitose), the Yausubetsu exercise range (covering Akkeshi, Hamanaka and Bekkai) and the Kamifurano exercise range (covering Furano City, Kamifurano and Nakafurano).


According to the announcement on July 28 by the public affairs office of the Ground Staff Office, about 2,000 U.S. marines including one infantry battalion from the 4th Marine Regiment (Camp Schwab in Okinawa) and one artillery battalion from the 12th Marine Regiment (Camp Bulter in Okinawa) will participate in the exercise. About 1,300 GSDF members will join the exercise from the 11th Brigade (Sapporo City), the 28th Infantry Regiment (Hakodate City) and the 11th Artillery Unit (Sapporo City).


On the same day, the Ministry of Defense announced that six MV-22 Ospreys, four CH-53 large-size helicopters, four UH-1 helicopters, and four AH-1 attack helicopters will participate in the exercise as part of the transfer of U.S. Marine Corps training from Okinawa to other parts of Japan.


The size of the upcoming exercise will be far greater than “Forest Light,” a joint exercise conducted in March this year at the Somagahara (Gunma Prefecture) and Sekiyama (Niigata Prefecture) exercise ranges with about 600 U.S. marines and six Ospreys.


During the exercise in August, the U.S. Marine Corps will use the U.S. Air Force Misawa Base (Aomori Prefecture) for refueling and maintenance of Ospreys. (Abridged)

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