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(BGF) – Reporting for The Diplomat, Shannon Tiezzi discusses the implications of Japan’s recent decision to station troops on the Yonaguni Islands. The Yonaguuni Islands are Japan’s western-most islands and are only “150 kilometers south of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands”. The base on the island will be 25 hectares and will house 100 troops as well as a radar outpost, which will expand Japan’s surveillance capabilities in the area of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and China’s mainland. As Tiezzi discusses, this has the potential to strain Japan’s already tense relationship with Japan. Click here to read the full article or visit The Diplomat‘s website.
Japan to Station Troops on Yonaguni, Near Disputed Islands
By Shannon Tiezzi
In a move that threatens to reverse the recent signs of a burgeoning thaw in China-Japan relations, Japan will break ground Saturday on a new military lookout station on Yonaguni, Japan’s westernmost inhabited island. Yonaguni, which has a population of around 1,500, is located 108 kilometers east of Taiwan and 150 kilometers south of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. According to Reuters, with the new outpost,Yonaguni’s military presence will expand from two police officers to 100 soldiers and a radar outpost.
A report in the Ryukyu Shimpo said that the base will be built on 25 hectares of land leased from Yonaguni to the Ministry of Defense. In return, the local government will receive around 15 million yen ($150,000) in rent each year. Construction will begin with the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, and is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2015.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said in a press conference Tuesday that Japan “decided to deploy a GSDF (Ground Self-Defense Force) unit on Yonaguni Island as a part of our effort to strengthen the surveillance over the southwestern region.” The new outpost will house radar equipment. As a result, it is expected to increase Japan’s surveillance capabilities both over the disputed islands and the areas close to the Chinese mainland.
The addition of 100 Japanese troops to an island so close to the disputed islands obviously has the potential to exacerbate the already substantial tensions between China and Japan. When asked about Yonaguni Island during a regular press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “Due to historical reasons, any of Japan’s military moves will raise concern among Asian countries.” She added, “Japan should give a serious explanation for its real intention of building military muscle in [the] relevant region.” For China, the stationing of troops onYonaguni is one more piece of evidence of Japan’s rising militarism. It could also provide China with ammunition to fire back at recent accusations from Shinzo Abe that China seeks tounilaterally change the status quo in the region.
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