Inside the Ring
Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin R.”Randy” Mixon, commanding general of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific, told Inside the Ring.
The exercise “reinforces the commitment we have in our defense relationship with the Japanese military,” he said in a telephone interview from his headquarters at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Gen. Mixon soon will travel to Japan to take part in the exercise in Hokkaido.
The war-game scenarios for the exercise will include battling a regional threat that includes missile defenses, air defense and ground-forces operations, he said.
U.S. and Japanese forces will cooperate in dealing with missile threats because “naturally there is a missile threat that exists within the region,” he said, referring indirectly to North Korea.
The exercise, involving some 5,000 U.S. Army and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force troops, will kick off on Dec. 7 — the date marking the anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The exercise, dubbed Yama Sakura or Mountain Cherry Blossom, will be held at Camp Hagashi Chitose on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost large island, and will involve ballistic missile defense training against an attack, an Army spokeswoman said.
Although it is held annually, this year’s exercise is the first training deployment for the Japan-based I Corps Forward, a base of about 3,500 U.S. Army troops located at Camp Zama, about 25 miles southwest of Tokyo, that was set up in 2007.
The forward unit is a “small deployable command post force” that is part of U.S. efforts to bolster defenses throughout Asia, Gen. Mixon said. The unit would work with Japan’s Central Readiness Force, which can be deployed for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
Gen. Mixon said Japanese army forces are “very, very good.”
“They are certainly focused on their No. 1 mission, which by their constitution is limited to internally in Japan.”
Japan’s military has been actively developing its anti-missile defenses in cooperation with the United States. It currently has deployed Patriot PAC-3 missile defenses at several locations and also has two sea-based Aegisequipped Kongo-class warships with anti-missile interceptors.
Japanese warships were set to shoot down a long-range North Korean missile during a test in May, if the missile went off course and headed toward Japan.
Army officials would not discuss the details of the exercise and said only that it will involve a fictitious foreign power.
“We’re going to focus on getting some very good training for both the forces, but at the end of the day this about demonstrating a solid commitment to the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force by the Army forces that are here in the Pacific,” Gen. Mixon said.
The I Corps Forward unit grew out of the storied I Corps based at Fort Lewis, Wash. It is part of several strategic moves by the U.S. military designed to better position forces and alliances in Asia that the Pentagon has dubbed a “hedge strategy” of preparing for the possible emergence of a hostile China.
Other steps included shifting an aircraft carrier strike group from the Atlantic to the Pacific, additional deployments of attack submarines to Guam, along with strategic bombers. Security Council official declined to say when a decision on the F16 jet sale request to Taiwan would be made.