Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force 1st Airborne Brigade conducted exercises on Jan. 13 in an apparent demonstration of force which could be used in a future conflict with China over the disputed Diaoyutai (Diaoyu or Senkaku) islands, the Chinese-language Beijing News reports.
Stationed at Camp Narashino in Funabashi, Chiba prefecture, the 1st Airborne Brigade, Japan’s elite paratrooper unit is currently one of the best equipped fighting forces in the country. It was established in 1958 to counter Soviet special forces in a hypothetical attack on Japanese territory. In light of the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the islands in the East China Sea, the primary adversary of the 1st Airborne Brigade has switched from the Soviet Union to China’s People’s Liberation Army.
In a potential armed conflict, units would be deployed to the battlefield as rapid reaction force. Soldiers from the brigade have all been trained to use Mandarin Chinese. As the unit is organized to fight a defensive war in an offensive way, it is currently considered the biggest challenge to the PLA should China attempt to establish control over the disputed islands, which are administered by Japan.
With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government taking a tougher stance regarding the dispute, the deputy director of the thinktank China Institute of International Studies, Ruan Zongze, stated that it would be unwise for Japan to rely too much on force to resolve the territorial conflict. Ruan said the exercises will do nothing but hinder regional stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific. To prevent war with China, Ruan suggested the Japanese government reflect on its limitations as China will act if it becomes necessary.