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Japan Sending Soldiers to Its Closest Island to China

Japan will be stationing 100 soldiers and radar equipment on Yonaguni, an 11-mile long island off the east coast of Taiwan, and the closest piece of Japanese territory to mainland China. On a clear day you can see the disputed Diaoyu (also known as the Senkaku) Islands from there. Reuters has the story:

The mini-militarization of Yonaguni—now defended by two police officers—is part of a longstanding plan to improve defense and surveillance in Japan’s far-flung frontier.

Building the radar base on the island, which is much closer to China than to Japan’s main islands, could extend Japanese monitoring to the Chinese mainland and track Chinese ships and aircraft circling the disputed crags, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China.

“We decided to deploy a Ground Self-Defense Force unit on Yonaguni Island as a part of our effort to strengthen the surveillance over the southwestern region,” Onodera said this week. “We are staunchly determined to protect Yonaguni Island, a part of the precious Japanese territory.”

For Japan, Yonaguni is a perfect military outpost from which to monitor the contested islands. Home to only 1,500 people, it is 93 miles away from the islands and only a few hundred miles from the Chinese mainland, with Taiwan sitting directly between the two. By installing surveillance equipment on Yonaguni, Japan can keep a closer eye on Chinese maritime activities and receive earlier warnings of missile attacks.

Beijing and Tokyo are competing for maritime and aerial superiority in the East China Sea. Both countries claim the disputed islands as their own, and each has been building up its military at an unprecedented rate while expressing concern over the other’s intentions. With Japan’s move to militarize Yonaguni, the standoff between the two countries will only grow more tense.

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