Japan, US to conduct joint drills on Okinawa's remote islands

Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force and the US military plan to conduct joint drills on Okinawa's remote islands in October based on the scenario of a battle against aircraft and vessels.

The GSDF announced details of the joint exercise plan on Thursday.

It said the exercise will take place in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, the northern prefecture of Hokkaido and the Kyushu region between October 14 and 31 with about 6,400 Japanese personnel and US troops taking part.

The plan shows about 80 US troops from the Marine Corps and the Army will be deployed at the GSDF's camp on Okinawa's southwestern remote island of Ishigaki for the first time.

In Okinawa, they are expected to practice surveillance activities using radar for the battle scenario.

The GSDF and the US Marine Corps will set up a joint coordination office at GSDF camps, including those in Naha, Ishigaki and Yonaguni, for training to transport personnel and goods.

As part of the training, the GSDF's Osprey transport aircraft will fly from an airport in Ishigaki to Kumamoto Prefecture via Amami Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture based on the scenario that the aircraft would carry injured personnel. This will be the first time that a GSDF Osprey will fly over Okinawa.

The prefectural government of Okinawa is calling for the GSDF to voluntarily refrain from flying the aircraft.

The GSDF stressed that the joint drills involving the Osprey flight in Okinawa and Japan-US joint drills in Ishigaki are important in order to prepare for any situation.

The force added that it will continue to explain the exercise to municipal governments and residents.