On Wednesday (3 September) Japan's Self Defence Force demonstrated its capabilities on a training field near Mt.
On Wednesday (3 September) Japan's Self Defence Force demonstrated its capabilities on a training field near Mt. Fuji, 100 miles west of Tokyo. 1,200 men took part in the exercise which included target shooting by ground troops, flame thrower demonstrations, helicopters moving troops, jet fighters firing rockets and target shooting by anti-tank guns.
A contingent of military attaches from 19 countries watched the exercise along with 15,000 spectators. Japanese Defence Agency Director-General Michita Sakta was also in the audience.
Technically, the Japanese Constitution, drawn under United Sates tutelage following the Second World War, prohibits the development of any other than a so-called defence force and prohibits Japan from sending troops abroad for any reason.
The Japanese Self Defence Force now numbers 260,000 men, 753 tanks, 650 armoured personnel carriers, 461 self-propelled guns, 41 destroyers, and escort ships, 15 submarines and 457 aircraft.
Japan spends less than one percent of its budget on defence and recently U.S. Secretary of Defence James Schlesinger said he was not sure that Japan could fulfil its defence commitment with that level of expenditure. He called for an improvement in air defence and anti-submarine equipment. He said the self defence force would have to expand.
Japan's military potential has drawn increasing concern since the U.S. withdrew from Southeast Asia the East-West confrontation shifted back to Korea, just across the sea from Japan.
The most recent plans by Japan to boost its military strength where curtailed for economic reasons and plans to add 13 ships, 26 jet fighters and trainers, 30 tanks, 50 armoured cars and 70 self-propelled guns were scrapped.
Still, Government officials have expressed an interest in beefing up Japan's defence role. Mr. Schlesinger has been invited to Japan for talks in November and a special mission has been sent to the U.S. to study the possibility of building a new U.S. anti submarine reconnaissance aircraft. Another mission travelled to Europe and the U.S. to study various jet fighters.
The country's present five-year defence programme ends in March, 1977, and the Government is preparing a new programme to succeed it. It's expected a white paper will be issued by the end of this year outlining plans for the coming five years.
Defence matters are a touchy political issue in Japan. Any hint of U.S. "string pulling" can create difficulties for the Government and there is strong pressure from Socialist groups against any signs of militarisation.