In­side the Ring

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - Bill Gertz

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.

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