YONAGUNI, Japan – Japan began its first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in more than 40 years on Saturday, breaking ground on a radar station on a tropical island off Taiwan. …
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who attended a ceremony on Yonaguni island to mark the start of construction, suggested the military presence could be enlarged to other islands in the seas southwest of Japan’s main islands.
“This is the first deployment since the U.S. returned Okinawa (1972) and calls for us to be more on guard are growing,” Onodera told reporters. “I want to build an operation able to properly defend islands that are part of Japan’s territory.”
The military radar station on Yonaguni, part of a longstanding plan to improve defense and surveillance, gives Japan a lookout just 150 km (93 miles) from the Japanese-held islands claimed by China.
Building the base 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. …
Japan, in its National Defense Programme Guidelines issued in December, expressed “great concern” over China’s military buildup and “attempts to change the status quo by coercion” in the sea and air.
China’s decision last year to establish an air-defence identification zone in the East China Sea, including the skies above the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islets, further rattled Tokyo.