The Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has participated in U.S. Marine Corps’ drills conducted in the North Training Area (NTA) (located in the villages of Higashi and Kunigami, Okinawa Prefecture) since fiscal 2016, according to documents released by the Defense Ministry to House of Representatives member Seiken Akamine (Japanese Communist Party). The GSDF troops repeatedly participated in “ranger” drills of the U.S. Marines under the pretext of “training with troops.” The SOFA does not designate the NTA as a joint use base. As it is possible for the government to be making the NTA a joint base without taking proper legal procedures, fact finding is needed.
“Ranger” is the name of the qualification for combat capability under special conditions including forest, night and urban conditions. According to the released documents, the GSDF participated in “each course” conducted in the NTA” for the purpose of “improving the GSDF members’ knowledge and skills in a jungle environment.” The GSDF participated in the drills three times during FY2016 and five times during FY2017. The Western Army and the Central Readiness Force mainly participated in the drills. The number of the GSDF participants gradually increased each time. At first, only several members participated, but eighteen troops joined a drill conducted from Jan. 28 to Feb. 9 this year.
The official name of the NTA is the “Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC).” Since the Vietnam War, U.S. Marines Corps have conducted anti-guerrilla combat drills. Besides the JWTC, the GSDF conducts “training” at almost all major U.S. military bases in Okinawa.
In accordance with the SOFA Article 2.4.(a) based on the U.S.-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation agreed on in May 2006, the number of the GSDF drills conducted at the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Hansen (located in the town of Kin, Okinawa) rose suddenly. According to the Defense Ministry’s data, 407 drills were conducted over a total of 837 days during the period from March 2008 through June this year.
Meanwhile, an increase in training for “amphibious operations” has become noticeable at the camp, making distinction between “training” and “drill” ambiguous.