By Shao Yongling and Song Pengchao
Japanese media reported that the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) launched a massive military exercise on September 15 involving about 100,000 personnel, 20,000 vehicles and 120 aircraft, and it will last till late November. It is reported that it is the largest military exercise conducted by the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) since 1993.
According to Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, the exercise would simulate the response to possible island attacks and hone JSDF's fast and large-scale delivery capability, but that’s just an excuse to gloss over an exercise of such a large scale, and the true purpose is to get ready for possible massive military operations and cooperate with the US military in demonstrating deterrence in the Asia Pacific.
Islands in the southwest of Japan, including the disputed islands between China and Japan, are all very small. If war broke out, it would be impossible to project so many troops there. Japan having such a large-scale exercise involving so many troops has nothing to do with island battles.
The JGSDF’s motive and purpose of this exercise are worth close attention. For one thing, Tokyo is having a drill for military operations on an even larger scale. In other words, should a more massive military operation take place in Asia Pacific and ground forces were required, JGDSF would be well-positioned to play a bigger part. For another, Japan is cooperating with the US military in posing deterrence to other countries in the Asian-Pacific region.
The recent exercise, with a large scale and obvious real-combat intentions, is worth attention in the following aspects.
What’s most noteworthy about the exercise is its scale, which is said to involve about 100,000 troops, accounting for two-thirds of the total JGSDF.
The second aspect is why the exercise is launched. Japan claimed that it is aimed at preparedness for any change in the Diaoyu Island situation.
The third aspect is the current pandemic situation in Japan, which remains critical. News from JGSDF showed that 135 of its troops stationed in Otsu of Shiga Prefecture were confirmed with COVID-19 infection between August 23 and September 1. So it’s hard to tell whether the exercise will cause a widespread transmission of the virus among the JGSDF.
Japanese Defense Ministry previously announced that it will seek a defense budget of 5.4 trillion Japanese Yen (about RMB 319.7 billion) in the fiscal year of 2022 “to cope with the mounting challenge posed by China's military expansion”. Japan's continuous efforts to intensify its defense forces on the excuse of the so-called “China threat” exposes its ambition to become a political and military power in the region.
The US is advancing its so-called Indo-Pacific strategy in the region, and it is rallying with its allies to contain and restrict its rivals, including conducting joint military exercises on various levels. Japan, as America’s most reliable partner in the region, closely follows its lead on many issues. Therefore, when Japan is taking a series of moves in the defense sector, especially when it is consistently increasing its military expenditure, we need to pay close attention to their near-term impacts as well as the country’s long-term political and military ambition. At the end of the day, Tokyo wants to overthrow the Yalta system established after WWII and completely shed its position as a defeated nation.
Editor's note: This article is originally published on military.cnr.cn as an interview between Song Pengchao, a military reporter, and military expert Shao Yongling. It is edited and translated from Chinese into English by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.