US, Japan mull amphibious and airborne landing drill to retake remote island

Source: Today SG/AFP

The United States and Japan are considering a joint military drill that will involve retaking an uninhibited island from foreign forces, amid a tense territorial dispute with China.

The drill, which is part of broader joint efforts, is expected to start in early November on a remote island in Okinawa, southernmost Japan, local media reported on Saturday.

Japanese and US troops will make an amphibious and airborne landing to retake the island using boats and helicopters, Kyodo said.

The island Irisunajima is in the East China Sea but hundreds of kilometres away from the disputed island chain.

Sino-Japanese relations have deteriorated sharply after Japan in September bought from private owners some of the East China Sea islets that both Tokyo and Beijing claim.

That sparked violent anti-Japanese protests across China and badly hurt trade.

Yesterday, Japan’s navy marked its 60th anniversary with a major exercise intended to show off its maritime strength.

About 40 ships – including state-of-the-art destroyers, hovercraft able to launch assaults on rough coastlines and new conventionally powered submarines – took part in Fleet Review 2012, the maritime equivalent of a military parade. About 30 naval aircraft, mostly helicopters, also participated.

Japan’s navy was joined by warships from the US, Singapore and Australia. Representatives from more than 20 countries, including China, also attended the event staged in waters south of Tokyo.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who watched aboard the destroyer JS Kurama, said Japan faces “severe” challenges to its security, though he did not specifically mention the dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea.

“It is needless to say that the security environment surrounding Japan is getting tougher than ever,” Mr Noda told about 8,000 servicemen and women, mostly from the navy.

“We have a neighbour that launches missiles under the pretence of satellite launches. We have various developments concerning territory and sovereignty.”

Mr Noda called on the sailors taking part in the exercise, which is held every three years but was expanded this year because of the 60th anniversary, to be prepared to face “new responsibilities” as the security situation around the country changes.

Tokyo has been alarmed in recent years by the rise of neighbouring China’s naval forces, which some strategists say could upset the regional status quo and erode Japan’s ability to credibly deter challenges to the freedom of key sea lanes.

Largely in response, Japan is strengthening its naval fleet by acquiring amphibious landing craft and is also mulling the purchase of unmanned drones to improve its offshore surveillance capabilities. AGENCIES


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