When the first Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) contingent was dispatched to Iraq in 2004, a U.S. Marine officer gave its commander some parting advice: “You’d better be ready to shoot somebody.”
This wasn’t said in jest.
Despite the JSDF being a military in all but name, “shooting people” really wasn’t part of the deal back then. The Japanese government made sure of it and, in the case of Iraq, only agreed to the deployment provided that Japanese troops only built roads and schools—and had Australian troops nearby to protect them.
Even in 2009, when a Japan Ground Self-Defense (GSDF) unit went to train at the U.S. Marine base at Camp Pendleton, California, a “commissar” from GSDF headquarters in Tokyo physically interfered with a Japanese NHK film crew trying to get some footage. Apparently, the idea of the Japanese army actually training for combat was a state secret.
As late as 2016, revelations that the GSDF unit in Iraq was actually on the receiving end of some enemy fire were used as a political weapon by Japanese leftists against the administration of then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—even if to little effect.
But that was then. Recently, the JSDF has been conducting serious, high-end exercises with the U.S. Navy and Marines on land and the seas around Japan, even in the middle of the South China Sea. And it is publicizing it, too.
Read the rest at The Epoch Times.
Grant Newsham is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.