By Tim Kelly
TOKYO (Reuters) – Britain and Japan cancelled a plan for a simulated amphibious beach assault near Mount Fuji this week that would have been the first joint drill between their troops in Japan, officials said on Wednesday, as a typhoon approached the Japanese mainland.
Typhoon Cimaron, which is heading north from the western Pacific, is expected to bring strong winds and rain to Japan over the next few days.
Britain and Japan had planned for a Royal Marine detachment and Japanese amphibious troops to storm the beach from boats launched from the British Navy’s flagship amphibious assault carrier HMS Albion on Friday.
The cancellation was announced by Britain’s embassy in Japan and the Ministry of Defence in Tokyo.
The Albion has operated in and around Japanese waters for several weeks, including patrols to help enforce United Nations sanctions on North Korea, as Britain seeks to bolster defence ties with Japan as it prepares to exit the European Union.
London is eager for a presence in a region that is driving global economic growth, while Tokyo wants to nurture defence ties beyond its traditional ally, the United States, as it contends with China’s growing military.
A Japanese destroyer and helicopters had also been assigned to the exercise in addition to the participation of Japan’s first marine unit since World War Two, the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade.
Activated in April, the 1,500-strong force backed up by helicopter carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey tilt-rotor troop carriers and amphibious assault vehicles was formed to counter any threats against islands along the edge of the East China Sea that Tokyo worries could be vulnerable to attack by China.
However, its existence is controversial because critics warn amphibious units could theoretically be used against Japan’s neighbours in breach of a post-World War Two constitution that renounces the right to wage war.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Paul Tait)