The Japan Self Defense Forces are a lot like subatomic particles. Everyone knows they exist, or rather believes in the larger order of things that says they should exist, but few people can really tell you what they’re really like. The SDF keeps a low profile, in large part due to the anti-military and anti-war attitude built into modern Japanese society. For outsiders the best way to gauge the SDF is often through its interaction with the armed forces of other countries.
There was really only one question I had for Colonel Michael Hudson, the 11th MEU commander, and I thought I’d blown my chance when I missed the morning media interview with him. Fortunately, he was not only at the exercise, but actually came over to introduce himself. We chatted for several minutes, and I seized the opportunity.
“Say,” I asked the colonel, lowering my voice and jerking my head in the direction of the GSDF men. “Off the record, how good are these guys?”
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It’s a tough question, but a fair one. As China rises and grows belligerent, that question is on the minds of people throughout the Pacific region. As China’s neighbor and theoretical rival in the Pacific, an effective Japanese military would go a long way to reassuring other Pacific nations that China could, if necessary, be put in check. An ineffective Japanese military means more work for everyone else.
Read more at Japan Security Watch.