Gen. Kimizuka on a tour of the USS Bonhomme Richard with Capt. Cathal O'Connor, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11

Gen. Kimizuka on a tour of the USS Bonhomme Richard with Capt. Cathal O’Connor, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 (Source: US Navy)

With the GSDF 15 Brigade’s recent exercises in Guam and the Marianas Islands (see Kyle Mizokami’s recent discussion of a burgeoning Japanese marine expeditionary-type force), Gen. Eiji Kimizuka, GSDF Chief of Staff, paid a visit to the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) of Amphibious Squadron 11.

According to the US Navy press release,

During the visit, Gen. Eiji Kimizuka along with Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck Jr., commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and Robert S. Luke, minister-counselor for political affairs, U.S. Embassy Tokyo had lunch, attended a bilateral training brief and took a tour of the ship.

The brief focused on Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) amphibious capabilities and the potential for future JGSDF and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) integration with Amphibious Squadron 11 and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Group discussion also focused on training areas in Guam and in the Marianas Islands that are currently being used to increase the proficiency of amphibious operations conducted by the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

With the shift in the Japanese defense focus from the wide-open mountains of the North to the small islands of its South-West, the question of amphibious capabilities has never been so important. The current flare-up of tensions over the Senkaku Islands is just a reminder of this. The GSDF is working not only on this security mission, but also training for its wider disaster-relief mandate:

Currently, members of the JGSDF are embarked aboard Bonhomme Richard and amphibious dock-landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) training alongside Sailors of Bonhomme Richard ARG and Marines from the 31st MEU in maritime operation areas which include: theater security cooperation, amphibious operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises.

“We have had planners, liaison officers, observers and even a boat team aboard Tortuga and Bonhomme Richard with us throughout the planning process and the operational phases,” said O’Connor.

US military-made video reports of the exercises emphasize the growing interoperability of the GSDF and the USMC. The video below is a summary of the exercises, part of Fall Patrol 2012, including a short word from Lt. Yoshihiro Takahashi of the 51st Infantry Regiment.

The beach-landing exercise shown in that video has a longer showing below (without narration):

And finally, more from Kimizuka’s visit to the South Pacific Memorial Peace Park, including press questions directed at Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force. Glueck worked alongside Kimizuka during Operation Tomodachi, the US military’s relief mission to Tohoku following last year’s earthquake. At that time, Kimizuka was in command of the SDF’s first-ever joint operations command out of Camp Sendai.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch