Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yonaguni Island


Ministry of Defense to station 100 GSDF members on island in Okinawa to observe China (Japanese news item originally published Nov 10, 2010)
The Ministry of Defense has finalized its decision to station around 100 Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) members on Yonaguni Island in Okinawa Prefecture to monitor the coast and the activity of Chinese ships.

The main objective of the forces will be using radar to monitor the movements of Chinese vessels, which have increased their activities in waters off the disputed Senkaku Islands and other areas of the East China Sea. The Defense Ministry is also considering in the near future stationing GSDF members on Ishigaki and Miyako islands, also in Okinawa Prefecture.

Currently GSDF members are not stationed any further west than the main island of Okinawa. Miyako has an Air Self-Defense Force radar site, but the area west of that is considered "a blind spot in national defense," according to a 2010 annual white paper released by the Defense Ministry.

Since early this year, there have been repeated instances of Chinese military ships sailing southward through international waters between the main island of Okinawa and Miyako Island. There was also a collision incident between a Chinese fishing vessel and Japanese patrol boats off Senkaku Islands in September.

The Defense Ministry plans to construct a camp on Yonaguni Island for the observation forces. Yonaguni, located around 110 kilometers from Taiwan and around 350 kilometers from the Chinese mainland, is considered one of the strategic buffer islands between Japan and its Asian neighbors.

Japan to send troops to remote isle over China fears: media (AFP, Nov 11)
Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa Thursday stressed the importance of boosting defence in island areas, including Yonaguni, to a security committee meeting at the House of Representatives, Jiji reported.

The defence ministry has applied for 30 million yen (365,000 dollars) from next year's budget for "preparatory research" on the issue, it said.

The Japanese military regularly sends patrol aircraft to the region but has no permanent monitoring facility on Yonaguni, a remote but populated rocky outcrop.

Taiwan to protest if Yonaguni troops affect security (Radio Taiwan, Nov 10)
Foreign minister Timothy Yang says Taiwan will lodge a protest if a Japanese plan to station troops on Yonaguni Island affects national security. He was speaking in Taiwan's legislature on Wednesday.

Foreign minister Yang also reiterated that Diaoyutai is a territory of the Republic of China on Taiwan. The Diaoyutai Islands are also claimed by Japan and China.

"Our stance has not changed. The area includes a place over which we claim sovereignty – that is, the Diaoyutai Islands. If the Yonaguni facilities [pose a potential threat to Taiwan's sovereignty], we will lodge a strong protest, and will not sit idly by," said Yang.

Taiwan must be stern with Japan on sovereignty dispute: lawmakers(Taiwan Focus News, 2010/11/08)
Taiwan will never bend on its territorial claim over the Tiaoyutai Islands or compromise over an airspace fracas with Japan, Taiwan's top envoy to Japan said at a legislative interpellation session Monday.

The sovereignty feud over the group of uninhabited islands that lie in the East China Sea about 180 kilometers off Taiwan's northeast tip has long been a sticking-point in relations between Japan, Taiwan, and China, all of which claim rights over the area.

John Feng, head of the Taiwan's de facto embassy in Japan, said that to protect the rights of Taiwan's fishery industry, the government will not waver on its claim of sovereignty over the disputed islands.

Taiwan is determined to resolve the longstanding quagmire in a "peaceful and rational" manner without any cooperation with China, he said.

Japan's unilateral decision in June to expand its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is another factor that has caused a rift in bilateral ties.

According to Taiwan, the expansion has encroached upon its airspace.

Drawn by the U.S. military just after World War II, the original ADIZ demarcation between Taiwan and Japan lay along longitude 123 degrees east and splits the airspace over Japan's Yonaguni Island in half. The division entitles Japan to the airspace east of the line while the area west of the line falls under Taiwan's jurisdiction.

The new ADIZ drawn up by the Japanese Ministry of Defense extends 22 km from the baseline, with an additional 3.7 km as a buffer zone. The redrawn zone creates an overlap with Taiwanese airspace.

The Foreign Ministry immediately released a statement to emphasize Taiwan's refusal to accept Japan's version of the ADIZ and called upon Tokyo to establish a channel of communication to resolve the matter based on aviation control and security.

Japan Set to Monitor Chinese Naval Operations (South Korean new item published Nov 12.)
Japanese defense officials said Thursday that up to 200 troops would be deployed on Yonaguni island so they could conduct radar surveillance of Chinese naval operations. The island is Japan's westernmost point, about 100 kilometers east of Taiwan.

With increased Chinese naval activity in the region, Japanese officials have concluded that the lack of a monitoring station leaves it vulnerable. Japanese air forces watch the waters but currently Japan has no permanent monitoring station on Yonaguni.

The Asian powers both claim ownership of disputed islands in the East China Sea, with Japan calling them Senkaku and China, Diaoyu. In an incident in April, a Chinese flotilla approached the islands and sent out a helicopter to buzz Japanese naval ships monitoring their movements.

More recently, relations between the two countries soured after a September incident in which a Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Japanese patrol boats and Japan detained the Chinese captain for 17 days before releasing him.

A leaked Japanese Coast Guard video of the incident shows the Chinese trawler turning directly into one of the patrol boats, but China says Japan acted illegally in the dispute.

It might be noted that the same paper ran this story in September:

China Working to Counter U.S. Naval Power in the Pacific
China was ramping up investment in nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, submarines, aircraft carriers and cyber warfare, and building up a force that could strike as far as the U.S. territory of Guam. The U.S. and other countries have questioned Beijing's need for either a carrier or new missiles because, they say, there currently are no real threats to China's interests. But Wu says there is also one basic reason for doing so now -- money.

Wu says it was not possible for China to build an aircraft carrier before, but now China's economic boom has given the country the means to work on one.

China's neighbors, including Southeast Asian nations that dispute Beijing's claims to scores of small, uninhabited islands in the South China Sea, have quietly expressed concern about its military buildup.

At the same time, Beijing has grown increasingly vocal in recent months in demanding that U.S. ships stay away from wide areas of ocean -- covering much of the Yellow [West], East and South China seas -- where it claims sovereignty.

Report: Japan plans to send troops to islands Washington Post article Nov 21:
Japan currently does not have troops on Yonaguni and placing them on an island that is closer to China, Taiwan and the disputed islands could become a contentious issue.

Japan plans troop deployment near disputed islands - Nikkei Reuters, Nov 21:
The plan is to send 100 troops to Yonaguni, about 110 km east of Taiwan and 160 km southwest of disputed East China Sea islets called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

But it wouldn't take effect until 2014 at the earliest, the newspaper said without giving an explanation.

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