- Title: JAPAN: Country conducts annual military drill
- Date: 25th August 2010
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 9-YEAR-OLD VISITOR, YOSHITADA SANO, SAYING: "It was really powerful and dynamic. I enjoyed it a lot." (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 11-YEAR-OLD VISITOR, RYO ISHIKAWA, SAYING: "They will save us from the enemy."
- Embargoed: 9th September 2010 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA654LQ1W54Q6XBPCFH1FG5B5PQ
- Story Text: Managed mayhem reigned at the foot of Mount Fuji on Tuesday (August 24) as Japan's Self Defence Forces showed off its fire power to the general public.
From tank shells to helicopters, the crowd of 9,000 people was treated to a cacophony of live ammunition explosions and bursts of gunfire.
A total of 2,400 defence force personnel took part in the 4-day annual exercises since 1962 that draw larger and larger crowds each year at the Camp Fuji training area in Gotemba, about 90 kilometres west of Tokyo.
The 120 tank and ground artillery as well as 25 fighter jets and helicopters fired a total of 44 tons (97,000 pounds) of ammunition onto the skirts of the Mountain Fuji veiled in the clouds.
"Building more trust from the people of Japan for the Self Defence Force is one major purpose of this drill along with the educational demonstration," said Yoshino Kabuta, the public relation officer of Japan Ground Self Defence Force.
The event gained more political context as Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan met his military chiefs last Thursday (August 19) ahead of a review that could lead to the biggest changes in defence policy in years, including easing restraints imposed by a pacifist constitution drawn up after the country's defeat in World War Two.
A panel of experts is likely to issue recommendations this month for a policy review expected to be finished by year-end, with media reports saying it will urge Japan to to beef up its ability to respond to multiple attacks and also review a defense posture that relies heavily on the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
For young visitors, however, the event is just blockbuster fun.
"It was really powerful and dynamic. I enjoyed it a lot," said 9-year-old Yoshitada Sano.
Others felt safer looking at the arms demonstration.
"They will save us from the enemy," Ryo Ishikawa, 11-year-old visitor told Reuters.
Security in the region remains tense since North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May 2009 which was followed by several missile launches over Japan and into the Pacific.
Relations across the divided Korean peninsula have become more fraught following the attack on the Cheonan and there also is growing concern in Washington over the North's increasingly unpredictable behavior.
Yet despite its impressive technology and military hardware, made very plain on the fields of Gotemba, the Japanese Self Defence Forces has not fired a single shot outside Japan since its inception 50 years ago.
The current Japanese Constitution, which renounces war and the threat of use of force as a means of settling international disputes, has prohibited it from using its forces even outside national boundaries except as part of United Nation peace keeping missions.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS