According to the Daily Yomiuri, the Ministry of Defense is proposing that private sector transportation as well as U.S. military forces assist in transporting troops and equipment to the Nansei islands.

A Defense Ministry report on implementation of the National Defense Program Guidelines will propose private-sector transport and U.S. forces be involved in helping the Self-Defense Forces defend the Nansei Islands, according to defense sources.

The report covers practical actions to be undertaken by fiscal 2015 in three areas, aimed at increasing the flexibility of SDF operations.

Increased utilization of private transport resources is suggested mainly for the defense of the remote Nansei Islands. (Link)

Chartering private transport in peacetime is fine. However, in a crisis, how many Japanese transportation companies are going to risk going into zones where war might break out? Will Yamato ship to Yonaguni island if the island in an emergency? You can’t order private individuals and businesses into risky situations.

The report says the defense of remote islands requires the deployment of units “prior to enemy attack to thwart invasion.”

Such an operation would require a large number of SDF personnel and weapons to be transported quickly, but given the nation’s current fiscal situation, drastically enlarging the SDF’s transportation capabilities would be difficult, according to the report.

The report therefore proposes utilizing private-sector transport and the assistance of U.S. forces in the mid- to long-term.

Hitchhiking on U.S. military flights is a terrible idea, even in peacetime.

1. U.S. forces do not just go back and forth around the world with just enough capacity to allow the SDF to climb on board. The “hitch a ride” idea is just impractical.

2. In designated exercises, or even a crisis situation that triggers the U.S. – Japan Security Treaty, using U.S. forces to move the SDF around is fine. But in peacetime, the third largest economy in the world should be able to handle its own basic defense.

3. U.S. forces, particularly the U.S. Air Force, are often slow to move, hidebound by bureaucracy and rules. (Example.) This would force the SDF to operate on the U.S. Military’s timetable, not theirs.

4. Situations may arise where the U.S. may just not want to get involved, and may not legally be obligated to assist.

5. U.S. forces, at least right now, are busy with three other wars and can ill-afford time and resources flying Japanese troops around.

Japan’s economic woes are not enough reason to make more work for an ally. “Hitching a ride” sounds great, but in the end someone else always pays for that ride, and that America would have to pay is inexcusable, particularly when Japan is not even spending one percent of GDP on defense.

For the sake of it’s own dignity, Japan needs to invest in heavy lift aircraft. Even Australia can afford 3 C-17 Globemaster IIIs.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch