Japan to Emplace More Missile Systems to Defend the Senkaku Islands
Japan's Ministry of Defense is requesting massive funding for a new anti-ship missile system to defend its Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea also claimed by China.
The funding request was made as part of Japan's record defense budget for fiscal 2017, the largest in the country's history. The country's unprecedented defense spending is being driven by relentless Chinese aggression into the seas surrounding the Senkakus.
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The ministry said it wants $50.12 billion in spending for fiscal 2017, 2.3 percent higher than the initial budget for the current fiscal year. The increase in defense spending is the fifth straight year the government has set a record defense budget.
The proposed budget calls for Japan to develop surface-to-ship missiles as well as air-to-ship missiles for its fighter jets and maritime patrol aircraft. The new surface-to-ship missile system is expected to have a range of 300 kilometers, far enough to reach the vicinity of the Senkakus.
Japan also plans to organize a mobile amphibious unit with more than 2,000 troops at a base in Nagasaki Prefecture. The budget also proposes funds to dispatch extra personnel to the Philippines and Vietnam to enhance intelligence-gathering in the South China Sea.
Japan is boosting expanding its military ties with Southeast Asian nations -- especially the Philippines -- which have their own disputes with China in the South China Sea.
The Senkakus are a group of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan located due east of Mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands.
Over the past few months, Tokyo has filed more than two dozen protests through diplomatic channels claiming China Coast Guard vessels had repeatedly violated its territorial waters around the Senkakus.
Funds will also go to strengthening Japan Coast Guard installations in the southern islands of Miyakojima and Amami Oshima to counter China's increasingly brazen aggression in the East China Sea.
Japan last June warned China further Chinese military naval incursions in the waters off the Senkakus will compel Japan to take "necessary actions," including mobilizing the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
The warning was prompted by a warship of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) entering waters just outside Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus.
Analysts have taken this to mean Japan has drawn a clear red line with the warning that violations of Japanese sovereignty by the PLAN will be met by force.
China has since tested this red line by sending PLAN warships close to the Senkakus but not close enough to trigger a Japanese military response. In its most blatant challenge to Japan, China last Aug. 6 sent a fleet of 230 fishing boats protected by seven China Coast Guard ships to swarm the waters off the Senkakus. Japan lodged a strong diplomatic protest over the Chinese provocation.