ENIWA, Hokkaido: Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force and the US Marine Corps conducted on Sunday an opening ceremony for their joint exercises that have already started in the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido.
The drills began on Wednesday and will last until Feb. 8. Two of the Marine Corps' Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft deployed at the US military's Futenma air station in the southernmost Japan prefecture of Okinawa are slated to fly to Hokkaido on Monday to join the exercises.
It will be the second time for Ospreys to take part in Japan-US joint exercises in Hokkaido. The first such drills were conducted in August 2017. It will be the first time for the prefecture to host Japan-US drills involving Ospreys in winter.
The ongoing joint drills are among the largest in Japan, bringing together about 1,600 members from the GSDF and some 2,500 US Marines.
"The long-term drills utilizing the foundation of Hokkaido, a large prefecture, are going on under tough conditions in the snow-covered cold region, so I want you all to join the exercises by fully understanding the characteristics of the training environment," Maj. Gen. Mikio Kose, head of the GSDF's 5th Brigade, said at the opening ceremony, which was held at the GSDF's Minamieniwa camp in the Hokkaido city of Eniwa.
Col. Jason Perry, commanding officer of 4th Marine Regiment of 3rd Marine Division, said that he looks forward to opportunities to boost the Marine Corps' know-how in winter operations.
The drills, to be conducted at four locations in Hokkaido, will begin in earnest on Monday, with participants set to practice combat shooting and airmobile operations, among others.