Japan has activated its first marine unit since World War II amid a growing effort to counter Chinese military expansion

U.S. Marines fast roped out of CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters during a ceremony activating a new Japanese marine unit on April 7.

It’s the first time Japan has had an amphibious marine force since World War II. The new unit is tasked with defending Japanese islands and conducting amphibious raids and landings.

The new unit will allow Japan to project power in the East China Sea where the country holds a major territorial dispute with China over the energy rich Senkaku Islands.

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit welcomed and rehearsed alongside the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade at Camp Ainoura, Japan, according to Capt. George MacArthur, a Marine spokesman with the 31st MEU.

During the activation ceremony, the Japanese marines demonstrated the recapturing an island, Reuters reported.

About 1,500 Japanese marines were present for the activation ceremony, Reuters reported.

The new Japanese amphibious unit is strikingly familiar to the task organization of and capabilities of a Marine Corps MEU. Though that should not be all too surprising ― the Corps has been working alongside and training the new Japanese marine unit for some time now.

In January, U.S. Marines and Japanese marines trained together at Camp Pendleton, California, in an exercise called Iron Fist, where the two militaries practiced amphibious operations and landings.

The Japanese marine unit is roughly 2,100 strong, according to Reuters.

The 31st MEU has been busy in the Pacific region as of late. Just recently, the MEU embarked, on the amphibious assault ship Wasp wrapped up the Ssangyong portion of the 2018 Foal Eagle exercise in South Korea, according to J. Elise Van Pool, a spokeswoman with U.S. Forces Korea.

The Ssangyong exercise mimics amphibious landings, though portions of the training event were canceled due to bad weather, Van Pool said in a statement to Marine Corps Times.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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