Japanese troop build-up on isle raises war fears

Move response to assertive China but locals afraid of being targeted

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​Fisherman Yukihide Higa, 56, lives in Okinawa's Ishigaki, which administers a set of islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkakus to Japan and Diaoyus to China. He does not fish around the disputed islets due to safety concerns.
Ishigaki fisherman Yukihide Higa does not fish around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islets due to safety concerns. (Above) Japan Air Self-Defence Force aircraft at Naha Air Base in Okinawa prefecture.
Ishigaki fisherman Yukihide Higa does not fish around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islets due to safety concerns. ST PHOTOS: WALTER SIM
Ishigaki fisherman Yukihide Higa does not fish around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islets due to safety concerns. (Above) Japan Air Self-Defence Force aircraft at Naha Air Base in Okinawa prefecture.
Japan Air Self-Defence Force aircraft at Naha Air Base in Okinawa prefecture. ST PHOTOS: WALTER SIM
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An undercurrent of trepidation ripples through the idyllic backwater of Ishigaki island in Okinawa prefecture, that diplomatic tensions might one day escalate into war.

At the centre of these concerns is the planned deployment of anti-missile units and Japanese Self-Defence Force (SDF) troops to the island to ward off an increasingly assertive China in the East China Sea.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2018, with the headline Japanese troop build-up on isle raises war fears. Subscribe