In April 2022, Japan widened its military capabilities in the southern region of the country in order to counter potential threats from China.
To increase its defensive capabilities in the area, Japan has relocated hundreds of troops, including missile units, to a newly developed base on an isolated island near China and Taiwan.
The Japanese military has then confirmed that up to 570 members of the Ground Self-Defense Force had been deployed to the new garrison located on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa prefecture.
Ishigaki Island, renowned as a destination for travelers and divers because of its warm waters, is situated close enough, only 200 kilometers south, of the Senkaku Islands, an archipelago without inhabitants that is disputed between Japan, China, and Taiwan.
“Here in Ishigaki, we had never seen an SDF member in a camouflage uniform,” said Sachiko Fujii, 75, a local civic group member who joined the protest. “We will never give up until the base is removed.”
The Japanese forces revealed that they had dispatched various units on Thursday, including squads armed with land-to-ship and land-to-air missiles.
Meanwhile, in Okinawa, a band of 150 islands situated off the coast of mainland Japan in the East China Sea, the Japanese government has been increasing the number of military bases constructed.
Since 2016, Japan has had four military bases, the most recent being Ishigaki. This was when the Yonaguni outpost was first staffed with 160 soldiers to observe coastal areas.
In 2019, two additional bases were established in Amami Oshima and Miyakojima, equipping them with medium-range surface-to-air guided missiles and type 12 short-range surface-to-ship guided missiles.
Last year, Gen. Yoshihide Yoshida, Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) chief of staff, told CNN that an additional defensive capacity was necessary to demonstrate their strength to opponents challenging their territory.
“We must protect our country’s territorial sovereignty at all costs. And, we need to send our message that we will firmly defend our country,” he said.
Tensions in Different Areas
The contested waters between China, Japan, and Taiwan have been a source of tension for decades. The dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea is one of the most contentious issues in the region. However, it has become increasingly heated in recent years as all three countries have sought to assert their claims to the islands.
The dispute began with the Chinese Civil War when the defeated Nationalist (Kuomintang) government fled to Taiwan and declared it an independent nation. This led to a power struggle between China and Taiwan over who had sovereignty over the islands. Japan also laid claim to them, further complicating matters.
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In recent years, tensions have risen significantly as all three countries have increased their presence in the region (most especially Japan). China has sent its coast guard vessels into disputed waters and conducted military exercises near the islands. Japan has responded by increasing its military presence in the area and strengthening its ties with Taiwan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry informed CNN that their Coast Guard’s activities around the islands were “a legitimate demonstration of China’s sovereign right.”
The political situation was further complicated when Nancy Pelosi, US House Speaker, traveled to Taiwan last year, which incited a strong reaction from Beijing, who began intensifying military drills in the area.
China has been intensifying its air activity near Taiwan by frequently dispatching military aircraft into the air defense identification zone (ADIZ). This has caused Taipei to send up fighter planes, broadcast radio alerts, and employ their anti-aircraft missile systems.
Japan has now dispatched its fighter jets in reaction to Chinese aircraft coming near Japan’s airspace.
The situation is now critical as all sides are unwilling to back down from their claims. If left unresolved, this dispute could lead to a confrontation between China, Japan, and Taiwan in the near future. All three countries must find a way to peacefully resolve this issue before it escalates any further.
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