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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 April 13 - 19  > Tokyo & Washington put priority on military exercises over rescue and relief operations
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2016 April 13 - 19 [POLITICS]

Tokyo & Washington put priority on military exercises over rescue and relief operations

April 13, 2016
Shortly after a massive disaster hit northeastern Japan in March 2011, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military conducted a “joint transfer operation” under the guise of “disaster-relief duty”. However, it took nine days for them to start operations in the stricken areas, Akahata reported on April 13.

Akahata recently obtained documents of the Ground SDF’s North Eastern Army. The documents state that GSDF troops were engaged in “rescue operations” from March 11 to 19 in 2011.

Right after the disaster occurred, a GSDF tank unit deployed to Camp Shikaoi in Hokkaido’s Obihiro City, which has 240 personnel and 80 vehicles, was waiting for a dispatch order.

On the night of March 14, the unit left the camp and the next morning it arrived at Tomakomai Port in Hokkaido. The unit then boarded the USS Tortuga, a U.S. Navy landing ship, along with jeeps, armored vehicles, heavy trucks, and arms and ammunition. On the afternoon of March 16, Tortuga left for the Maritime SDF’s Ominato Naval Base in Aomori Prefecture. The following day, they unloaded the vehicles from the vessel and set off for Camp Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture. At noon on March 20, the unit finally arrived at an encampment in Miyagi Prefecture and began rescue operations.

It generally takes only one day for a civilian ferry to reach Miyagi from Hokkaido. A person involved in the SDF said to Akahata, “If the SDF unit had got there much earlier, they may have saved more lives.”

The GSDF Northern Army’s newsletter stated on April 1, 2013, “This is the first time in the GSDF history that a U.S. Navy landing ship transported an SDF unit.”

The Japanese Defense Ministry stated that this combined action “can be a model of measures that will be taken in various situations”.

Under the rhetoric of “saving lives”, Tokyo and Washington are stepping up their moves to involve SDF troops in U.S. military operations abroad.
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