Japan’s top defense official has confirmed plans to deploy additional “500 to 600” missile defense personnel on one of its westernmost islands in the Pacific to strengthen Allied capabilities to counter China’s denial of territory tactics within the first chain of islands.
Nobuo Kishi told reporters Tuesday that the government was hoping to deploy anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile units in Ishigaki, which is part of Okinawa Prefecture and at the end of the Nansei island chain – just 185 miles from Taiwan and even closer to it controversial Senkaku Islands.
Kishi said a schedule for the deployment has not yet been finalized, but the Department of Defense is reportedly targeting the end of 2022, Tokyo reports Yomiuri Shimbun. The official said the possibility of deploying additional electronic warfare units on Japan’s westernmost inhabited island of Yonaguni is also being investigated as part of the 2023 defense budget.
In April, Kishi visited Japanese forces on Yonaguni and noticed that he could almost see the Taiwan coast, which is less than 110 kilometers away.
If the plans are implemented, Japan will have reinforced the first chain of islands with additional anti-missile missiles on four Okinawa islands in the western Pacific, including Miyako and the main island of Okinawa, which is where the majority of forward-based US forces are stationed.
Accordingly Yomiuri Shimbun, the additional ground forces are likely a direct response to China’s expanding blue water marine that has been sailing between Miyako Straits and exercising in the Pacific in recent months.
One new unit will operate “surface-to-ship and surface-to-air missiles,” while another will “provide the first phase of response in the event of a major disaster or armed attack,” the newspaper said.
Analysts say China is developing anti-access and area denial (A2 / AD) capabilities around the first bottlenecks in the island chain to prevent US forces from intervening in a regional conflict, most likely around Taiwan.
However, with strategists predicting that Chinese carriers and warships would be stationed in eastern Taiwan during a conflict rather than entering the narrow strait, Japan’s own A2 / AD capabilities could play a crucial role in preventing enemy ships from reaching the Pacific .
On July 13, Japan’s annual White Paper on Defense raised serious concerns about the activities of the Chinese Coast Guard around the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims under the name Diaoyu. The document also made a historic first reference to the security of Taiwan.
Over the past few weeks, Tokyo has sent formal and informal signals suggesting that the continued existence of Taiwan’s democracy is closely tied to its own national security. The Chinese Foreign Ministry protested his interference in its internal affairs.
On Monday, Kishi said that Financial Times that China was trying to “envelop Taiwan”. He called on members of the international community to call for cross-strait peace.
“Instead of a direct military collision between China and Taiwan, international society needs to pay more attention to Taiwan’s survival,” he was quoted as saying.