U.S. and Japanese army chiefs meet on ‘front line’ of likely Japanese defense

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US Army Pacific Commander General Charles Flynn thanks Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Chief General Yoshihide Yoshida after their press conference on Amami Oshima, Japan, Thursday, September 8, 2022. (Kelly Agee /Stars and Stripes)

AMAMI OSHIMA, Japan — A “very severe security environment” surrounding Japan means the country’s Self-Defense Force must strengthen its defensive capability and its alliance with the United States, senior brass from both countries said Thursday.

US Army Pacific Commander General Charles Flynn and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Chief held a press conference on Amami Oshima days after the end of the largest military exercise that the armies of both nations undertake regularly.

“Now I look at the current situation around Japan, we are helped by countries like China, North Korea and Russia across the sea, so I recognize that Japan is located at the tip of the sea. ‘a very tight security environment,’ the general said. Yoshihide Yoshida, Chief of Staff of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force.

“It is imperative that Japan fundamentally strengthens its defense capability and strengthens the Japanese alliance’s ability to deter and respond,” he said.

US Army Pacific Commander General Charles Flynn and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Chief General Yoshihide Yoshida sit inside a Kawasaki OH-1 helicopter at Amami Oshima, Au Japan, Thursday, September 8, 2022.

US Army Pacific Commander General Charles Flynn and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Chief General Yoshihide Yoshida sit inside a Kawasaki OH-1 helicopter at Amami Oshima, Au Japan, Thursday, September 8, 2022 (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

The Japanese garrison at Amami, about 200 miles south of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, was reinforced in 2019 as a cover against “natural disasters or any emergency”, authorities told the ‘era.

Plans called for the positioning of around 800 troops on the island, which is part of the Ryukyu, or Nansei, range, the “front line of our defense”, former defense minister Takeshi Iwaya said in 2019.

Flynn is the first US Army Pacific commander to visit Amami. His tour highlighted the combined exercises of American and Japanese forces that simulated the defense of the island there. Orient Shield began Aug. 27, took place in locations across Japan, and ended Sept. 3, according to the military.

Japanese U.S. Army, 11th Airborne Division, 1st Multi-Area Task Force, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade participated, according to an Army press release on August 27.

Infantry units from the Airborne Division at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, for example, participated in live-fire training with the Japanese Army West, focusing on the Javelin man-portable anti-tank missile and combat operations. sniper, infantry combat and air assault, according to the Army.

Leaders of the U.S. Army and Japan Self-Defense Force pose following a press conference in Amami Oshima, Japan, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022.

Leaders of the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Force pose following a press conference in Amami Oshima, Japan, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

“I can tell you that the Eastern Shield that we are doing now, in 2022, is very different from just a few years ago, much more complex, much more difficult, much more rigorous and demands much more of the soldiers in both cases the U.S. Army Japan Ground Self-Defense Force,” Flynn said. “And in my opinion, that’s exactly the kind of environment and exactly the kind of training rigor that we want to do together .”

Now in its 37th year, the Eastern Shield formation intersects and integrates multiple military “domains,” including land, air, sea, space and cyber. It also aims to enhance interoperability, the ability of one nation’s military to use another nation’s military equipment and training methods.

The U.S.-Japan alliance has deepened through ties between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military as China escalates tensions in the Taiwan Strait, Yoshida said.

Flynn said the allied force is part of a multinational response to challenges in the Indo-Pacific region that require joint, multinational solutions.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing here,” he says. “And that’s exactly the message I think the region and all of its partners need to get out of this.”

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