Japan to make its debut in Valiant Shield military exercise


China Military Online
Chen Zhuo
2024-06-05 23:45:51

By Zi Ge


Japanese and US warships participate in the joint military exercise (file photo).


Japan's Ministry of Defense has announced that the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) will participate for the first time in the Valiant Shield exercise conducted by the US military in the Pacific region. This marks the inaugural involvement of a foreign nation since the exercise was launched in 2006, underscoring the deepening military integration between Japan and the US.


The Valiant Shield is hailed as the most extensive and combat-oriented multi-service exercise conducted by the US military in the Asia-Pacific region. Since its inception in 2006, it has been held biennially in the waters near Guam. Historically, the exercise was exclusively attended by various services and arms of the US troops stationed in the Asia-Pacific region, with no involvement from other nations previously. Military personnel from allies were invited solely to observe. The primary objective of the exercise is to affirm the rapid response and multi-service joint combat capabilities of the US military and present them to its allies.


The exercise typically brings together various armed forces of the US military in the Asia-Pacific region, encompassing the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Space Force, Special Operations Forces, and sometimes even the Coast Guard, with a total force deployment exceeding 20,000 personnel. Notably, the exercises in recent years have also involved the mobilization of two carrier battle groups. Operations, such as detection, positioning, tracking, and engagement, were conducted across sea, air, land, and cyberspace domains. Drills focused on subjects like long-range maritime fire-strikes, joint air defense and strikes, rapid force projection and demonstrations of combat systems.


It has been the 10th time for Valiant Shield exercise this year, which is scheduled to take place from June 7 to 18. The JSDF intends to deploy around 4,000 personnel for participation. The exercise zone covers the places deployed with facilities owned by the JSDF and US military installations in Japan, extending to the waters surrounding Japan, sea areas spanning from Japan to the Philippines, and the waters adjacent to Hawaii, Guam and Palau. The JSDF will collaborate with the US military to conduct high-intensity tactical exercises in the waters surrounding Japan and within the JSDF bases.


Analysts have noted that the Valiant Shield exercise this year emphasizes the so-called "security cooperation in the Western Pacific region" with invitation for the JSDF for the first time. This strategic move indicates clear intentions of the US military.


From the US perspective, this gesture aims to further integrate the JSDF into the US military's joint operational system, making it assume greater responsibilities within the alliance. Recently, the US and Japan have upgraded the Japan-US Security Treaty, restructured the US military command in Japan, and enhanced the operational command authority of US forces stationed in Japan. The goal is to strengthen the collaborative operational capabilities between the US forces in Japan and the JSDF. The possibility remains open that in specific future strategic deterrence scenarios, the US military may contemplate allowing the JSDF to assume a leading role.


From the Japanese viewpoint, this exercise marks a significant shift for the JSDF, from a supportive role to a direct participator, seemingly edging closer to breaking free from the constraints imposed by Japan's pacifist Constitution. In recent years, the JSDF has progressively engaged in joint exercises led by the US military, aiming to achieve its aspirations for outward-oriented development and becoming a de-facto component of the operational forces in the US military planning.


Analysts highlight that the Valiant Shield 2024 exercise features evident targets, intentions and ambitions. The frequent joint military exercises carried out by Japan and the US will undoubtedly undermine the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.


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