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U.S., Japan Begin Giant War Games

November 14, 1994

MISAWA, Japan (AP) _ The United States and Japan on Monday launched their largest wargames ever, sending 26,500 troops into mock battle in what officers called a show of readiness to repel post-Cold War threats.

″In the military these days, if you’re not ready to operate anywhere in the world, you’re probably not doing a good job,″ said Capt. Mark Rutter of Huntsville, Ala.

He spoke on the runway of the U.S. Misawa Air Base, 350 miles north of Tokyo on the Pacific coast, as F-16 and A-10 warplanes took off in an intermittent snowstorm for mock attacks on planes and ships.

The wargames, called ″Keen Edge,″ bring together members of all four U.S. military branches and Japan’s three services. They involve more than 400 aircraft and 27 ships, as well as the 25th Light Infantry Division from Hawaii. The 13,500 Japanese and 13,000 American troops involved are believed to be a record number for U.S.-Japanese exercises, said U.S. spokesman Maj. Kevin K. Krejcarek.

The end of the Cold War means not only budget cuts, but also a broader range of potential crises that U.S. forces in Asia, including the 45,000 American troops stationed in Japan, believe they need to be ready for.

″The world has changed,″ said Lt. Col. Terry Mize, a native of Clemson, S.C., now based at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo. ″(Downsizing) has forced us to do things a lot smarter.″

Krejcarek cited North Korea and the feud between China and several other countries over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as possible flashpoints.

Pointing to A-10s, he said the United States needs to be able to intimidate potential troublemakers in Asia.

With multilateral operations such as the Gulf War becoming common, many officers said it’s important to practice with other countries’ forces. That is especially difficult in Japan because of the language barrier.

″Sometimes the simple things get lost in Japanese-English translation,″ said Capt. Tyler Otten of Marysville, Wash. ″But being able to sit and talk face to face makes a big difference.″

The exercises continue through Thursday.

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