The Talisman Saber 2023 exercise has finished in Australia. The exercise included 13 countries and was an impressive and complex mix of amphibious, maritime, ground, air and combined arms training. And all geared toward war-fighting. Even Japan’s Self-Defense Force (JSDF) sent a contingent.
Japan’s contingent included the Japanese navy, along with amphibious ships JS Izumo and JS Shimokita. It also sent the Ground Self-Defense Force’s “Marines” – the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) – and the Japanese army’s 1st Helicopter Brigade.
The Japanese even took advantage of Australia’s wide open training ranges to launch Type 12 surface-to-ship (anti-ship) missiles as well as Type 03 surface-to-air (anti-aircraft) missiles. They seldom do this sort of training in Japan.
And the GSDF brought other units from the Western Army, Eastern Army, and Northern Army. They even included the artillery training detachment from GSDF’s Fuji Schools. This gave them practice and also exposure to operations with foreign militaries and in a “foreign” environment.
It’s come a long way
By any measure, the JSDF has come a long way in recent years. A little over a decade ago, Japan was afraid to even deploy forces to its own southern islands.
The idea of sending the JSDF thousands of miles from Japan to conduct combat training, and with a collection of foreign militaries, would have given many Japanese politicians and the Asahi Shimbun editorial board the vapors.
On the United States side, State Department Japan Hands ー and more than a few people at USINDOPACOM ー could have told you it was all impossible and would never happen. And beyond that, the Chinese wouldn’t like it so don’t let it.
So it’s great the Japanese military went to Australia. But it’s bad the Japanese military went to Australia.
Huh? Here’s the problem.
It is impressive, indeed. One almost rejoices to see what the once insular JSDF is doing, and the scale of it all in a major multilateral exercise.
But they need to do this sort of training up closer to home – in and around Japan.
That’s where the trouble is coming and the fight will happen.
The problem isn’t the JSDF. Rather, one fairly notes that Japanese officialdom – including some defense bureaucrats – are too timid, as is their wont. They don’t have a sense of urgency about what’s coming their way.
Yes, they understand China (and Russia and North Korea) are a threat and a scary one at that. But doing something about it? That’s a different story.
This writer will be more impressed when Japanese officialdom and society allow their own JSDF (particularly the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade) to train in their own maritime terrain. “Key maritime terrain” is what it’s called in military lingo. And that means training with the Americans and the Australian Defense Force together.
There’s been some useful but relatively limited training between the US Marines and GSDF. But it’s not what it should be.
“NIMBY” (not in my backyard) is still strong.
Read the rest at AsiaTimes.
Grant Newsham is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.