CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii -- Senior military leaders from the U.S. and Japan met at Fort Shafter this week to assess cooperative efforts and current strengths of the Japan-U.S. alliance and decide on important changes for future training.
Led by Gen. Yoshida Yoshihide, chief of staff, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the Japanese contingent met with Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and Gen. Charles A. Flynn, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, in the 41st bilateral meeting of the annual Senior Leader’s Seminar.
Each year, the U.S. Marines and Japan Self-Defense Force conduct ten bilateral exercises and participate together in numerous smaller unit-level engagements both bilaterally and with additional allies and partners throughout the region.
The senior leaders recapped highlights and benefits from the exercises conducted since the group last met in February of 2021. Key events discussed included major command post and combat readiness exercises such as Keen Edge, Jean d’Arc 21, Resolute Dragon and Yama Sakura, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercises such as the Remote Island Disaster Exercise. Additionally, Marine F-35Bs conducted flight operations from the flight deck of the JS Izumo in October, illustrating potential interoperability in the interests of regional security.
“The alliance between the U.S. and Japan has never been stronger,” said Rudder. “World events in the past few months have highlighted just how quickly malign actors can destabilize entire regions and disrupt the global economy. Our alliance stands for stability.”
The leaders also discussed upcoming bilateral and multilateral exercises. Japan Ground Self-Defense Force engineers and explosive ordnance disposal teams will participate for the first time in Southern Jackaroo, a mechanized infantry training event in May conducted between the JGSDF, the Australian Defence Force and Marine Rotational Force – Darwin. This marks increased operational capability for the exercise -- JGSDF infantry have participated in past iterations.
Gen. Yoshida and Lt. Gen. Rudder announced their decision to consolidate the Maritime Defense Exercise and Exercise Iron Fist next year and move Iron Fist 2023 from California to west of the international date line. This will enhance bilateral planning, communication, and the ability to conduct bilateral amphibious operations, with the added benefit of providing a stabilizing security presence to the region. This move is in keeping with alliance initiatives announced in January by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, III, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and their Japanese counterparts.
SLS is an important touchpoint for the leaders of the U.S. and Japanese ground forces to collaborate on regional security initiatives, advance alliance capabilities and shape future areas of mutual interest. The U.S.-Japan alliance has served as the cornerstone for regional peace and security for over 60 years and remains indispensable to the security interests of the Indo-Pacific region.