Transport companies supporting the Ground Self-Defense Force in a drill simulating a military crisis such as an attack on Japan say they would be uneasy doing so in the event of an actual emergency.
“We just have accepted logistics tasks offered to us,” one ferry company involved in the drill said. “We have no idea how much we could do in the case of a military emergency.”
Since September, the GSDF has been conducting one of its largest-scale exercises focusing on transportation along with U.S. forces and private-sector companies that the Defense Ministry commissioned to perform transport tasks.
The drill aims to identify transport challenges and enhance cooperation with private companies.
There is a need to bolster defenses against China’s aggressive maritime moves by boosting capability to quickly transport the GSDF’s personnel and goods to remote islands.
About 120,000 GSDF personnel, around 3,900 vehicles and 800 container loads of goods have been transported to six training grounds across the Kyushu region in the drill, which will continue until the end of November. All GSDF divisions are participating as part of their training.
Though the drill assumes that the GSDF needs to prepare for an incoming military emergency, the National Federation of Dockworkers Unions of Japan, representing dockworkers, echoed the concerns of the ferry company.
“We do not mind cooperating with (the GSDF) in peacetime but we cannot accept it if we are forced to help more in a military emergency without us knowing. We would like to see their next move,” the federation said.
Sixteen private companies have been supporting the GSDF in the drill, including 14 ferry companies and one airline. Leading logistics firm Nippon Express Co. has subcontracted some of their work to the Japan Freight Railway Co., among other firms.
The law on how Japan deals with an armed attack stipulates that local authorities and private-sector companies designated as “designated public institutions” bear responsibility to perform necessary tasks along with the government.
It also provides that the public will endeavor to make necessary cooperation. More than 10 designated public bodies have participated in the GSDF drill.
The GSDF and private-sector staff have loaded and unloaded goods at about 30 ports across Japan to date during the drill.
In October, the GSDF showed the media in Oita Prefecture how a Nippon Express truck arrived at a GSDF training ground and how GSDF members checked and unloaded goods.
They also released a video showing a GSDF tank at a boarding gate used by ferries run by private companies, descending on an iron ramp and disembarking at a port.
Staff of a private company were also seen in the footage.
A senior GSDF officer commented, “People naturally have various views, but it is true that the SDF alone can’t defend the country. We hope that this drill gives people in the private sector an opportunity to consider how we could cooperate in a military emergency.”