Japan eyes new land-to-sea missile amid tensions over isles: Report

 A group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, on September 2012.
A group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, on September 2012.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Japan will develop a new land-to-sea missile as part of plans to beef up its defence of remote southern islands, as tensions with China continue to increase over the disputed territories, a report said yesterday.

The two countries are locked in a long-running dispute over the uninhabited islets known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyudao in China.

The report comes after repeated protests by Japanese Foreign Ministry officials over what Tokyo calls "intrusions" by Chinese ships in the territorial and contiguous waters of the rocky islands.

On Saturday, a Japanese government source said that Chinese military fighter jets have approached the Senkaku islets since late May, with one plane flying within 50km of Japan's territorial air space around the islets, reported Kyodo News yesterday.

Tokyo scrambled Air Self-Defence Force fighter jets in response, the source said, calling such approaches by Chinese aircraft "abnormal".

Chinese military airplanes have flown near the islets more than three times since late May, the source said.

Tokyo plans to deploy the new weapon, which will reportedly have a range of 300km, on islands such as Miyako in Okinawa prefecture, the top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun said, without citing sources.

The range will cover the disputed island chain, the Yomiuri said, adding that the deployment is expected by 2023.

Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force currently has in its arsenal a surface-to-ship missile with a maximum range of just over 100km.

The new missile will be mounted on a vehicle, making it easy for it to be transported to different locations.

The missile will be developed solely in Japan and will use solid fuel, the Yomiuri said, referring to the technology that allows for a weapon's long-term storage and a capacity to be launched at short notice.

Officials at the Defence Ministry could not be reached for comment.

"In the light of China's repeated acts of provocation around the Senkaku islands, Japan aims to increase deterrence with improved long-range strike capability," the newspaper stated.

Japan also protested in June after it said a Chinese navy frigate sailed close to territorial waters near the islands for the first time.

Tensions over the islands have been a frequent irritant and strained bilateral relations, though tensions had markedly relaxed over the past two years as the countries held talks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'Japan eyes new land-to-sea missile amid tensions over isles: Report'. Print Edition | Subscribe