Japan to deploy troops near Senkaku

Movement of 500 troops to Ishigaki city is part of plan to defend disputed islands

TOKYO • The Japanese government plans to deploy some 500 troops in Ishigaki city, Jiji Press reported yesterday, which is located on an island near the disputed Senkaku islands.

The move is meant to boost the defence of south-western Japan's remote islands, a government source said yesterday.

The deployment would add to the planned housing of other troops on nearby islands in the Okinawa prefecture, the Japanese territory nearest to Taiwan and China.

Mr Kenji Wakamiya, the parliamentary vice-minister of defence, is to visit the city today to meet with Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama to explain the deployment plan of the Ground Self-Defence Force troops, the source told Jiji.

The Senkaku islands are administered by Japan but claimed by China as the Diaoyu islands.

Japan and China have routinely butted heads over ownership of the uninhabited islets, as Chinese state ships - mostly coast guard - and aircraft have approached them on and off to back up Beijing's claims and test Japan's response.

The current five-year defence build-up programme that started last year, Jiji said, puts priority on the defence of remote islands in south-western Japan.

Mr Wakamiya plans to seek the local government's support for land acquisition and other related matters, with the troops seen as a first-response unit in case a remote island was invaded, Jiji quoted the source as saying.

The deployment is expected to be completed around 2019.

The current five-year defence build-up programme that started last year, Jiji said, puts priority on the defence of remote islands in south-western Japan.

Japan's Defence Ministry has obtained basic approval from local governments for its plans to deploy some 150 coastal monitoring troops on the island of Yonaguni in Okinawa.

There would also be security and missile units comprising some 800 troops on another Okinawa island called Miyakojima.

Yet 550 more troops are to be deployed on the island of Amami Oshima in Kagoshima prefecture by the end of fiscal year 2018, the news agency said.

In the East China Sea, where the remote islands are located, the Chinese government ships have made repeated intrusions into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku islands, Jiji claimed.

It added that China is also continuing unilateral gas development near the border of Japan's exclusive economic zone, the source told the news agency.

Japan said on Nov 13 that it was monitoring waters near islands in the East China Sea after it spotted a naval intelligence ship from China operating in a new area for the first time, news agency Agence France-Presse had reported.

Japan's Defence Ministry said that a P-3C patrol aircraft observed the Dongdiao-class intelligence vessel near territorial waters of the islands that Japan administers.

Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani had called the ship's moves "unusual" at a regular press conference then, saying it made "repeated eastward and westward moves in one day".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Japan to deploy troops near Senkaku'. Print Edition | Subscribe