After years of watching its international influence eroded by a slow-motion economic decline, the pacifist nation of Japan is trying to raise its profile in a new way, offering military aid for the first time in decades and displaying its own armed forces in an effort to build regional alliances and shore up other countries’ defenses to counter a rising China.
Already this year, Japan crossed a little-noted threshold by providing its first military aid abroad since the end of World War II, approving a $2 million package for its military engineers to train troops in Cambodia and East Timor in disaster relief and skills like road building. Japanese warships have not only conducted joint exercises with a growing number of military forces in the Pacific and Asia, but they have also begun making regular port visits to countries long fearful of a resurgence of Japan’s military.
And after stepping up civilian aid programs to train and equip the coast guards of other nations, Japanese defense officials and analysts say, Japan could soon reach another milestone: beginning sales in the region of military hardware like seaplanes, and perhaps eventually the stealthy diesel-powered submarines considered well suited to the shallow waters where China is making increasingly assertive territorial claims.
Read the rest of the story: Japan Expands Its Regional Military Role.
Growing up in Japan, Yusuke Tsuge never imagined he’d run around in military fatigues or carry a rifle in a country that has not engaged in armed conflict since its defeat in World War Two.
But on a recent sunny day, Tsuge, a magazine editor, was among 42 Japanese taking part in training to join the military reserve force, in which ordinary people with day jobs stand by to help out the military when it is mobilized to defend the country.
Under a gun-shy, post-war defense policy, Japan has never deployed its reserve force, formed in 1954 and now with a headcount of 39,500.
Even the military, officially called the Self-Defence Forces (SDF), is untested in battle. Japan’s pacifist constitution bans the maintenance of a military, although it has been stretched to allow armed forces for self-defense.
After saluting the national flag following an early morning formation drill, Tsuge and the other trainees, clad in uniforms and green helmets, slung rifles over their shoulders before marching to a field to practice surveillance and capturing enemy soldiers at gunpoint.
As a reservist with no military experience, Tsuge would not take part in front-line defense but could still be called on to guard army posts at home or to transport supplies. He could also be deployed to help the SDF in rescue work for earthquakes, floods and other disasters.
Read the rest of the story: Japan army reservists at ready for gun-shy defense.