The very last time the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) received new assault rifles, the Nikkei 225 stock index soared to nearly 40,000 in 1989, then crashed 50% nine months later.
Jane's Information Group reports JGSDF will receive a new 5.56 mm rifle and 9 mm handgun to defend the country's southwestern islands from China.
The new rifle, designated as "Type 20," is manufactured in Japan under the name "Howa5.56," which was unveiled Monday at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo.
Typ 20 assault rifle
JGSDF spokesperson told Janes 3,283 units were purchased, valued at JPY900 million ($8.36 million). The new weapon is water-resistant and designed for use in amphibious operations. It has "better firepower" than its predecessor, the Howa Type 89 5.56 mm assault rifle, the spokesperson added.
Video of new weapons
Army units under the Ground Component Command, including the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade based at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and Rapid Deployment Regiments across Japan, will receive the new assault rifle and pistol in 2021.
Disputed islands between Japan and China
Janes says the new pistol is the SFP9 9 mm handgun by German manufacturer Heckler & Koch. The spokesperson said the introduction of these new weapons will provide troops with better firepower.
SFP9 9 mm handgun
Garren Mulloy, a professor of international relations at Japan's Daito Bunka University, told South China Morning Post (SCMP) that the new assault rifle has been tested for multiple battlefield scenarios, not just the in amphibious operations.
"The obvious assumption is that Japan is planning to carry out a lot more amphibious operations," Mulloy said. "But if you talk to professional soldiers, you will see that dust or other contaminants in the mechanism of a weapon is a constant problem, and I think the Japanese have designed a weapon that will have better tolerances than its predecessor in all conditions."
"This weapon will have been proofed in the snow in Hokkaido, the humidity of Okinawa and they will have taken them to desert environments in the United States to make sure that they operate as they are meant to in any given situation," he said.
He said the purchase of the weapons comes at a time when Chinese maritime war drills have picked up around Taiwan, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea and increased further during the global pandemic.
"If we look back over the last six months or so, there have been a steady number of Chinese incursions into those waters and then during the coronavirus crisis, Beijing was otherwise occupied," he said. "But as soon as the crisis passed its peak there, it was as if Beijing wanted to reassert its claims. It's as if they said, 'We were away, but now we're back.'"
On Wednesday, we noted cross-strait relations and Sino-US diplomatic relations continues to deteriorate -- Japan has gotten the message, restock its military with new assault rifles as conflict with China around disputed islands could be dead ahead.