Japan Establishes Rapid Reaction Force
BY WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) inaugurated the core segment of its Central Readiness Force March 26 during a ceremony at Utsunomiya under the command of Lt. Gen. Josho Yamaguchi.
The Central Readiness Force (CRF), established in March 2007, is a "mixture of special forces, aerial transportation, anti-NBC warfare and military training units," said Sumihiko Kawamura, deputy director of The Okazaki Institute, Tokyo.
The CRF was established to improve Japan's capability to carry out international peacekeeping operations, disaster and humanitarian relief missions, counterterrorism and special operations.
"Now the CRF is capable to deal with any situation in either Japanese or foreign soil, and respond to any combat operations in further peacekeeping missions as a rapid reaction force," said Kawamura, who also said the creation of the CRF is not a sign of a "more proactive foreign policy linked to military, but a new step forward to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance."
The creation of the CRF grew out of the National Defense Program Guidelines established in 2005 to deal with new defense issues, such as counterterrorism and Japan's increasing role in international peacekeeping operations. The guidelines called for the creation of a rapid-reaction force capable of handling these issues.
"The GSDF has long trailed its sister maritime and air forces in internationalizing its capabilities and moving from a mere civil defense force to an armed force. Now they are catching up," said Peter Woolley, author of Geography and Japan's Strategic Choices. "Gone are the days when the government had to beg for civilian police to volunteer for hazardous duty in U.N. operations only to see them abandon their posts under duress [as they did in Cambodia in 1993]. Gone also in a few years will be the U.S. Marine expeditionary forces, which will be relocated to Guam."
The CRF comprises the headquarters, 1st Airborne Brigade, Central Readiness Regiment, Special Operation Group, 1st Helicopter Brigade, Central NBC Protection Unit, Anti-NBC Medical Unit, International Cooperation Activities Training and Education Unit with a total force of 4,200 personnel.
Currently, CRF's command headquarters is located in Asaka JGSDF base in Nerima, Tokyo, but under a future plan to unify Japanese-U.S. cooperation, CRF's headquarters will be relocated to Camp Zama near Tokyo by 2012. The U.S. Army I Corp Headquarters in Fort Lewis, Wash., will be relocated to Camp Zama this year, said Kawamura.
"This would be done for the U.S. military and the JSDF to operate with improved interoperability," he said.
"The new force makes it logistically, if not politically, easier for the JGSDF to participate in operations abroad. It also supplements and then replaces U.S. troops as a deterrent in the Ryukyu Island chain. In the end, it's also the manifestation of new roles for and new level of public acceptance of Japan's postwar soldiers," said Woolley.