Why the military wants to leave a pile of rockets on a Japanese island

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The U.S. Army Pacific Command is leaving a series of advanced rocket facilities in Japan indefinitely. The reason? Partly for ease, partly for geopolitical strategy in the East China Sea.

The ammunition and other military equipment was installed on the Amami Islands in southern Japan for the joint training exercise Orient Shield which ended on September 3, and it looks like it will remain there for several months. , according to statements made by Army Pacific. Chief of Command, General Charles Flynn. The decision was first reported by Reuters.

“Some of the equipment we’re just going to leave here,” Flynn told Retuers.

It’s unclear exactly how long, but it will be for at least several months. Two more joint training operations between Japan and the United States are planned for 2022 after Orient Shield. Weapons systems and other equipment are installed on the southern islands of Japan, including the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force base at Amami Oshima. With this schedule, the hope seems to be that it will be easier and less costly to simply leave the systems where they are rather than removing and redeploying them multiple times over the coming months.

“It’s an opportunity for us to move capabilities forward,” Flynn said last week.

The systems include a pair of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, also known as HIMARS. Several HIMARS were sent to Ukraine, where they had a devastating impact against the invading Russian forces, so much so that Russia used munitions to target them.

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The other reason for the decision is China. Although Flynn did not categorically state this specifically with ordnance, Orient Shield, an annual training exercise between the U.S. military and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces, is one of many recent training exercises such as Rim of the Pacific and Garuda Shield which were organized to coordinate against a possible Chinese threat. During a press conference on Friday, September 9, Flynn said the drills were “the biggest counterbalance we have” against Chinese aggression. The Amami base is near the southern end of Japanese territory, closest to Taiwan.

Tensions between Taiwan and China escalated this summer after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island. China has ramped up its own nearby military exercise, firing missiles at Taiwan. Speaking to reporters at Friday’s press conference, Flynn called Beijing’s actions “irresponsible.”

Orient Shield, which has operated in various guises for 37 years, has seen several army units work with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops in live-fire operations, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft drills.

The Amami Oshima base opened in 2019, part of an effort by Japan to fortify its southern islands around the East China Sea with anti-aircraft missiles and other defenses.

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