Japan showcases island invasion tactics in annual firepower show

Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:08am EDT
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By Tim Kelly

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese battle tanks, helicopters and elite troops stormed the foothills of Mount Fuji Tuesday in a first-of-its-kind display of the tactics and equipment the nation's military could use to defend or retake islands in and around the East China Sea.

The maneuvers involving some 60 Japanese military aircraft, including Apache attack helicopters, marked the first time Japan's Self-Defence Forces (SDF) have simulated a remote island battle as part of an annual live-fire exercise that has become part training drill and part patriotic spectacle.

Some 14,000 spectators, who had applied in advance for the limited viewing space, watched as Apache helicopters opened fire on imaginary enemy positions. Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters then swooped in to land elite Japanese troops, who dropped to the group of spectators via ropes.

The exercises also included 80 battle tanks and armored vehicles and some 2,300 SDF troops.

A large video screen mounted to a truck showed a map of the islands near Okinawa that are the subject of a territorial dispute with China, and provided running commentary on the maneuvers.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan has taken steps to relax limits imposed on its military by a pacifist constitution that dates back to defeat in World War Two.

In a strategic shift, Japan is building a new amphibious military unit and doubling the number of fighter jets deployed on Okinawa, galvanized by China's growing military power and claims on tiny uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

In July, Abe also ended a ban that kept Japan's military from fighting abroad, a historic step that both riled China and worried many Japanese voters.   Continued...

Tracer bullets ricochet off their targets as Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force tanks fire their machine guns during a night session of an annual training exercise at Higashifuji training field near Mount Fuji in Gotemba, west of Tokyo, August 19, 2014.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino