US, Japanese troops kick off Orient Shield exercise near Mount Fuji

By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 11, 2017

EAST FUJI MANEUVER AREA, Japan — U.S. and Japanese troops are training for urban combat amid a “grave situation” in the Asia-Pacific following North Korean nuclear and missile tests.

Six hundred Alaska-based U.S. soldiers and an equal number from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force kicked off this year’s Orient Shield exercise Monday with a ceremony at the East Fuji Maneuver Area.

“The regional security environment in the Asia-Pacific region is a grave situation,” Lt. Gen. Shoichi Shibata, commander of the 1st Division of Japan’s Eastern Army, told the troops. “North Korea has been continually launching missiles and conducting nuclear tests particularly challenging to the international community.”

The entire world is hoping that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes to his senses and changes his behavior, said Maj. Gen. James Pasquarette, commander of U.S. Army Japan.

“The strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance is a part of that calculus in changing [Kim’s] behavior,” he said.

Three infantry companies from the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, along with support personnel and a detachment from the division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, will train for two weeks alongside Japan’s 34th Infantry Regiment, focusing on platoon-level operations in urban terrain, Shibata said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, no one could have imagined that, only a month later, U.S. troops would be fighting in Afghanistan, Pasquarette said.

“The combat readiness you’ll develop here in Japan over the next two weeks may be similarly called to task in short order,” he told the U.S. and Japanese troops.

Twitter: @LeonCook12

Japanese soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 34th Infantry Regiment present arms during the opening ceremomy for the Orient Shield exercise at East Fuji Maneuver Area, Japan, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.

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