A First for Japan: SDF Joint Task Force Stood Up for Earthquake Response


Categorie: Asia, Japan, Japan Security Watch, Kyle Mizokami |

Lieutenant General Eiji Kimizuka, Commander, Joint Task Force-Tohoku. U.S. Navy photo.


Joint Task Force-Tohoku is the Japan Self-Defense Forces’ first-ever operationally deployed joint task force, commanding Ground, Air, and Maritime Self Defense Force units. JTF-Tohoku is commanded by Lieutenant General Eiji Kimizuka of the Ground Self Defense Forces. This is a big deal.

Japan’s armed forces have a history of maddening parochialism. During the Second World War, the Army and Navy bitterly struggled for national resources and overall control of the Imperial Armed Forces. Both had competing strategies and policies that they wished to impose on Japan. The Imperial Army and Navy both maintained separate air forces, even having their own separate fighter designs, as well as separate marine infantry and paratroop units. It is said that both services fought a war not only against the Allies, but the other service as well.

Even through the Cold War, the GSDF, ASDF, and MSDF were notoriously separate from one another. The problems this brought were not immediately obvious, since the SDF was a pacifist, defense-only military that was never tested by war. But it must have been obvious to those inside the SDF that the Americans, who excellent at joint operations and who frequently drilled with the Japanese, benefitted considerably from the lack of friction and cooperation among the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. As a result, recently there has been an emphasis among the SDF sister services to bring the concept of “jointness” to Japan. As the existence of JTF-Tohoku has pointed out, the effort has been successful.

In addition to disaster relief/humanitarian assistance, the joint task force concept will be particularly crucial in pursuit of Japan’s new “dynamic defense” doctrine. “Dynamic Defense”, which emphasizes the ability to deploy defensive forces into remote areas of Japan’s far-flung archipelago, will require joint operations from the start. GSDF troops will need to be shuttled around in ASDF transports. ADSF ships will need to clear the airspace to allow MSDF ships to operate. MSDF ships will need to provide gunfire support to GSDF troops. This will not only require a unity of effort, but of command as well. Despite the tragic circumstances, the establishment of JTF Tohoku will provide the SDF with tremendous experience in joint operations that will affect how the organization prepares for and fights wars.

Originally published at Japan Security Watch.


2 Responses to “A First for Japan: SDF Joint Task Force Stood Up for Earthquake Response”

  1. This joint task force is a very good idea during times of crisis. But, it couldn’t be very good if it will be for war. Is Japan going to engage in a World War again? This could bring about anxieties to the people.

  2. Andrew Engwirda says:

    Japan has not fought in any wars for the last 70 years. As things stand, China is the real worry in East Asia (followed by North Korea). It doesn’t require a lot of research to see that a lot of neigboring countries have had hostile incursions into their territory over the last few decades by China. Some SE Asian leaders have actually expressed support of Japan increasing it’s military potential to counter that of China’s.

    Those who think Japan is going to try and take over the world are living in the past, probably influenced by the anti-Japanese propaganda in the 90′s when everyone was told to believe the Japanese were out to rule the world again. Well, it didn’t happen. Japan has been in recession for a couple of decades. They’ve still managed to remain the world’s third biggest economy which is pretty impressive.

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