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Japan, Australia Ramp Up Amphib Forces: Countering China

The Marine Corps's current Amphibious Assault Vehicle, the 1970s-vintage AAV-7. Japan will buy the US Marine Corps’s current Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Then there’s the possibly China might simply sink the ships before any Japanese troops can land. “My concern there is they’re getting too close to the flame,” said Andrew Krepinevich, former longtime president of the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, who’s had many conversations with Japanese policymakers. Reinforcing islands during a crisis to deter China is doable, he said, as is defeating low-level incursions by Chinese fishing boats or Coast Guard vessels — the Pacific equivalent of Vladimir Putin’s deniable “little green men.” But once China’s military has permission to open fire, he said, “it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to reinforce those islands once the war starts or to retake them.” A better way to defend Japan’s outlying islands, Krepinevich argues, is with long-range missiles — anti-air, anti-ship, and, in case the Chinese still get ashore, anti-ground target. Japanese and Australian amphibious troops should instead act as a mobile reserve, shoring up militarily weaker allies like the Philippines. Of course, the last time Japanese troops landed in the Philippines, they conquered the place. Memories of this ordeal — in both countries — will complicate cooperation against China as much as any strictly military matter.

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