Japan’s military begins major drill with U.S. carriers watching North Korea

Reuters – Japan’s navy and air force began a three-day military exercise with two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan on Thursday adding pressure on North Korea to halt an accelerating ballistic missile program.

Japan’s growing concern over China’s naval might

BBC – The pride of Japan’s naval defence, the JS Izumo, is making an unprecedented journey through Asian waters over the next three months.

Japan Considering Buying Tomahawks for Destroyer Fleet to Deter North Korea

USNI News – Officials in Japan are weighing arming their fleet of guided-missile destroyers with Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles as a hedge against North Korean missile attacks.

Japan sends biggest warship to protect US supply vessel

BBC – Japan has dispatched its biggest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumi, to escort a US supply vessel within Japanese waters, in the first such operation since it passed controversial laws expanding the role of its military.

Japanese warships join with carrier Vinson on exercises

Defense News – Two Japanese destroyers joined up with the Carl Vinson carrier strike group in the Philippine Sea Sunday for renewed bilateral exercises, the Japan-based U.S. Seventh Fleet announced. The Vinson is headed north for the Sea of Japan in an expression of U.S. resolve as North Korea continues to develop offensive ballistic missiles with nuclear capability.

Japanese warships to join US fleet near North Korea as tensions rise

The Guardian – Japan is preparing to send several warships to join a US aircraft carrier strike group heading for the Korean peninsula, in a show of force designed to deter North Korea from conducting further missile and nuclear tests.

Second of MSDF’s largest warship comes into service

Asahi Shimbun – The Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kaga helicopter carrier, its joint-largest warship, was commissioned here on March 22.

Japan plans to send largest warship to South China Sea

Reuters – Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo, on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two.

Japan to speed up frigate build to reinforce East China Sea

Reuters – Japan plans to accelerate a warship building program to make two frigates a year to patrol the fringes of the East China Sea, where it disputes island ownership with China.

Sun, Sand, and Sentinels

The Economist – As geopolitical tensions grow in East Asia, so does the discomfort of the Ryukyu Islands.

Islands on the frontline of a new global flashpoint: China v Japan

The Guardian – Ishigaki Island does not look like a frontline. Japan’s own tropical idyll, it is a sleepy place of pineapple fields and mango orchards, where thousands of tourists potter along white sand beaches and scuba dive in crystal clear seas. Yet this tiny dot on the edge of the Pacific is the closest Japanese town to the uninhabited but fiercely disputed Senkaku Islands, once inhospitable home to a tuna processing factory, now abandoned but key to lucrative fishing grounds, oil and gas fields and a strategic shipping route.

Japan to join US in South China Sea patrols

CNN – Japan is planning on upping its activities in the South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States and exercises with regional navies, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said.

Tomahawk Missile for Japan

USNI News – Japan still lacks a key element of military power relevant for emerging challenges in the region—a flexible, long range strike weapon. The Tomahawk missile has long been a centerpiece of the U.S. military’s long-range precision strike portfolio. A sea-based weapon with a 1,000-mile range and a 1,000-pound warhead, it brings a proven proficiency for attacking well-defended, high-value land targets. New upgrades, including the ability to hit a ship, ensure the missile’s operational relevance beyond the next decade. The precedent for providing Tomahawk to allies was established nearly 20 years ago when the United Kingdom acquired 65 missiles. It is time to expand the “user club” to include Japan.

Soryu submarine arrives in Sydney Harbour; first Japanese sub to visit since WWII

ABC – A Japanese submarine has entered Sydney Harbour for the first time since World War II, just weeks before the Federal Government is tipped to announce which country will build Australia’s future subs fleet.

Japan’s Izumi-Class Helicopter Destroyer – An Aircraft Carrier in Disguise?

CIMSEC – To increase the potency of the JMSDF even further, the acquisition of aircraft carriers (CVs) would be a logical next step. Yet, as CVs can best be described as seagoing airbases with significant offensive capabilities, Japan’s pacifist constitution prohibits their use in its navy. Destroyers (DDs) on the other hand rely on speed and maneuverability and are easily employed in defensive roles, criteria deemed acceptable under the Japanese Constitution. Therefore, to accommodate this unique political limitation, the Japanese have designated one of their latest vessels as a “helicopter destroyer” (DDH) but with capabilities akin to those of an aircraft carrier.

Japan Shifting Amphibious, Coastal Defense Units Closer to China; Australia Boosts its Own Capability

USNI News – Japan is boosting its amphibious and coastal defense capabilities, shifting security personnel to outer islands and converting ground forces into amphibious units capable of defending those islands from attack.

Australia increasingly likely to pick Japan for huge submarine order, experts say

Japan Times – With Australia’s release of its defense white paper last week, the race to build the country’s next generation of submarines enters the home stretch — and some experts say the Japanese bid appears to hold an insurmountable lead.

Why the South China Sea Needs Japan’s Navy

National Interest – Boosting Tokyo’s presence is key to regional security.

Japan Eyes Bigger South China Sea Presence in 2016

The Diplomat – Patrol aircraft set to make transits in key locations along the South China Sea.

U.S., Japan naval exercises make ‘big step forward’

Reuters – The U.S. and Japanese navies established a new level of cooperation to resupply each others vessels during joint exercises in the seas south of Japan last week.

Tokyo on guard after ‘peculiar’ Chinese naval ship sails near islets

Nikkei Asian Review – Japanese officials are pondering the meaning of a Chinese navy spy ship’s passage near disputed East China Sea islets, a move some think is connected with Beijing’s self-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over that body of water.

Japan Shows Off Naval Power

Maritime Executive – An armada of carriers, cruiser, destroyers and submarines gathered off Japan’s coast on Sunday in a display of naval power that showcased Tokyo’s latest warships and signalled wider engagement by the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific.

Japan’s Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Ground Stations: A Visual Guide

NAPSNet – This is a study of Japan’s ground-based signals intelligence (SIGINT) stations, the 17 (soon to be 19) major facilities that intercept, monitor, collect, process and analyse foreign electronic signals. Official statements convey nothing of the scale or detail of the Japanese SIGINT effort, which is probably the third or fourth largest SIGINT establishment in the world. These Japanese ground signals interception and location facilities are integrated with its air and missile defence radar facilities. Together with Japan’s own long-range underwater surveillance systems, and combined with the Japan-based US parallel air, ground and underwater surveillance systems, they take Japan a very long way towards its stated aim to ensure information supremacy in the region. As potentially lucrative targets in the event of war, destruction of these important but vulnerable facilities could alter escalation dynamics in such a way that the widespread assumption that a Japan-China armed conflict could be controlled before substantial escalation may not hold true.

Japan Launches Latest Helicopter Carrier

USNI News – Japan has launched the second in its new class of helicopter carrier — the largest Japanese ships since World War II — in a Thursday ceremony in Yokohama.

Understanding Japan’s Shifting Defense Policy

USNI News – The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed major changes in Japan’s defense policy, with strong implications for the United States and U.S. armed forces in the Pacific. The changes, designed to shift Japan away from an isolated, pacifistic defense posture to a more dynamic one based on bilateral and even multilateral relationships, are controversial but not uncommon to most nations.