Part of the Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit could be moved closer to the capital to decrease response time

Part of the Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit could be moved closer to the capital to decrease response time (Source: Reuters/Kyodo)

From the Sankei today comes news of possible reorganization of forces in the Tokyo area to help counter (in particular) nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism. As the article suggests in its closing sentences, however, such ideas are often floated but are often put to bed.

It should be noted that the force being discussed is not a counter-terrorism force like that operated by special forces units in the UK and US, which are frequently geared towards hostage rescue, but rather a rapid readiness force to secure government facilities and respond to NBC attacks. Presumably the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s Special Assault Team (SAT) will continue to be the primary hostage crisis force.

Special thanks to Susumu at Surveillance to Go Nowhere for bringing this article to our attention, and here is a rough translation I prepared:

Metropolitan Counter-Terrorism Force to Operate Within 3km Radius of Kasumigaseki, Consist of Several Hundred Personnel

In order to strengthen the capability to respond to large-scale terrorist incidents in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, the creation of a new rapid response force is being considered within the Ground Self-Defense Force, it was learned on the 16th. “Counter-Terrorism First-Response Force” is to operate within a 3km radius of Kasumigaseki, where the Prime Minister’s official residence and government ministries are gathered; accommodation is being prepared for several hundred service membersin the vicinity of the Ministry of Defense (based in Shinjuku Ward). One part of the unit will be specially equipped to handle nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons terrorism.

The Ministry of Defense is currently investigating means of restructuring to increase the efficacy of its defense capabilities, and in a report compiled on August 5th, strengthening the defense readiness of the capital was ranked alongside the growing threat of an invasion of outlying islands in Japan’s south-west. This comes from the growing concern that political and economic centers are being targeted by terrorists,  with successive attacks in urban centers around the world, including the simultaneous terrorist bombings in London (2005) and the simultaneous attacks in Mumbai, India (2008).

Within the GSDF, the defense and security of the capital falls upon the 1st Division (based out of Nerima), with highly mobile infantry and better NBC response capabilities in comparison to other divisions.

Within the 1st Division, the closest base to the city center is Camp Nerima, home to the 1st Infantry Regiment, some 15km from Kasumigaseki. Since 9/11, reducing the first-response time to incidents within the city center as demarked by the Yamanote train line, where there are incredibly few units, has been a major issue.

In the case of NBC terrorism, the Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit (CNBC) would be dispatched from Saitama City, over 30km from Kasumigaseki. In the event of an NBC attack, it is essential that the process of reconnaissance, weapon identification, and decontamination be as short as possible, which makes it necessary to have a unit located close to the city center.

Because of limitations in land allocation and development of large-scale facilities within the heart of Tokyo, it is likely that part of the CNBC will be moved within the 3 km radius. Even in regular day-to-day operations, a front-line position has been judged to be more efficient at gathering the necessary information to protect critical defense facilities.

In the MoD’s National Defense Program Outline released at the end of last year, it was planned that the 1st Division would be reorganized into the Metropolitan Defense Group, specializing in counter-terrorism and counter-guerrilla warfare, but after delays in the investigation process, this has been put aside.

Note: the Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit is part of the GSDF’s Central Readiness Force, specializing in quickly responding to attacks by guerrillas or special forces through mobility and specialized units. This force was involved in operations in response to the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant. The unit’s predecessor, the 101st Chemical Defense Unit, was created following the 1995 sarin attack incident in Tokyo.

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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