Japan, U.S. start drill involving recapture of island

The United States and Japan on Monday began a drill in California to practice recapturing control of remote islands, using MV-22 Osprey aircraft for landing exercises at the request of the U.S. military.

It is the first time that Japan's Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces have jointly participated in such a drill on the U.S. mainland.

About 1,000 personnel from the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces are participating in the exercise through June 26. MSDF ships involved include the Atago, a destroyer equipped with the Aegis missile interceptor system, and the helicopter-carrying destroyer Hyuga.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday that the U.S. military's Osprey aircraft will land on the MSDF vessels as part of the joint drills.

"It will help boost technical cooperation," Onodera said. "The United States made such a proposal to us as we tried to find ways to cooperate between the (Japanese and U.S.) units."

The drill is intended to reinforce the SDF's capability to defend remote islands amid a row between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

China has requested that the two countries halt the training. Japan and the United States say they have no particular enemy country in mind.

The exercise is being conducted as part of another joint training exercise named Dawn Blitz scheduled for June 11-28 between the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

The U.S. military's deployment last year of 12 Ospreys in Japan has met strong local opposition as a series of accidents involving the tilt-rotor aircraft has raised safety concerns.