Japan strengthens defensive front line
Members of Japan's Self-Defense Forces during a drill
For years, the sole armed force protecting Japan's westernmost inhabited territory - the sleepy
island of Yonaguni, population 1,500 - has been two police officers.
That will soon change: a new military radar base is to be http://topyoutubevideos.com/ completed on
the island in two years' time, guarded by 100 members of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, a
development that has divided islanders while underscoring Tokyo's increasingly tough-minded
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On Saturday, Itsuki Onodera, defence minister, will travel to the island, which lies 2,000 miles
southwest of Tokyo and a stone's throw from Taiwan, to break ground on the base. When it is
completed in 2016, its radar will give Japan a clearer view of Chinese ship and aircraft movements in
the South China http://tv.youtube.com/ Sea, including around islands whose ownership is disputed
by Tokyo and Beijing.
"We are determined to protect Yonaguni, which is part of
the precious territory of Japan," Mr Onodera told reporters
this week, saying the SDF deployment belonged to a
broader effort to "strengthen surveillance of the
That effort has been under way for several years, as Japanese military planners shift their focus
away from their cold war adversary Russia - just off Japan's far north - to China, which has been
rapidly modernising its military and challenging Japanese control of the disputed islands, known as
the Senkaku in Japan and the Daioyu in China.
But the shift has accelerated under Shinzo Abe, the hard-talking conservative who became Japan's
prime minister at the end of 2012. Mr Abe is pushing for a more active role for Japan's military,
whose activities have been tightly constrained since the end of the second world war.
Since taking office, Mr Abe has reversed a decade-long
contraction in Japanese defence spending, lifted a longstanding
ban on arms exports and launched a controversial review of
Japan's defence-only military posture. He would like to broaden
the definition of defence to include so-called collective self-
defence, meaning Japanese forces could fight outside Japan to
protect allies such as the US.
Past governments have deemed such force projection to be
against Japan's pacifist constitution.
On Yonaguni, reaction to the island's new role on Japan's defensive front line has been mixed. Some
local leaders, including the mayor, Shukichi Hokama, have been lobbying for an SDF base for years,
hoping it would bring economic benefits to an area where the population is in decline and incomes
are significantly below the Japanese average.
Talks on the planned base dragged on for months over Mr Hokama's insistence that the national
government pay Yonaguni a Y1bn ($10m) "co-operation fee". The mayor ultimately dropped that
demand, but in return Tokyo will pay tens of millions of yen a year for land leases and other
Even with such enticements the island's municipal council split 3-2 over allowing the base to be
built, and last year Mr Hokama was only narrowly re-elected as mayor, defeating an anti-base
opponent by fewer than 50 votes.
Some islanders fear the SDF installation will make them a target in any conflict with China.
"Fighting occurs where military bases exist," Takashi Mikura, an 83-year-old farmer, told the Japan
Times. About 250 residents gathered to protest the groundbreaking this week.
Opponents question whether militarisation will bring economic
advantages. Yonaguni is part of the prefecture of Okinawa,
whose larger islands are home to the largest concentration of
US forces in Japan and which has long been Japan's poorest
region. Rather than becoming a tool to seal Japan's borders,
they argue, the island should court tourism from nearby Taiwan
"Cross-border exchanges had been growing," Ryuku Shimpo, a
local newspaper, wrote in a critical editorial last month. "But since the government got behind the
base plan they have been frozen."
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