YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The U.S. military is training to move Japan Ground Self-Defense Force vehicles by air and sea as the allies come to grips with new Japanese defense guidelines allowing for more cooperation in an emergency.
In January, the Air Force certified Japanese military vehicles to fly on U.S. aircraft at Yokota Air Base and Kisarazu Air Field. Three months later, U.S. C-130 cargo planes were moving Japanese trucks in a real-world operation after a series of devastating earthquakes in Kumamoto. And Army landing craft moved Japanese armored cars between Sasebo and Yokohama last month, U.S. officials said.
The air and sea freight operations follow changes to rules governing the Japan Self-Defense Force that were approved by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet last year. The changes give the Japanese military more freedom to act in support of U.S. forces in an emergency and remove geographical limits on their areas of operation.
“The new defense guidelines, agreed to in 2015, as well as the security legislation recently enacted by the Japanese Diet, are enabling new, expanded forms of cooperation with Japan,” U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Maj. John Severns said in an email.