Provocation: Japan to Station Troops Near Disputed Islands

In a move that threatens to reverse the recent signs of a burgeoning thaw in China-Japan relations, Japan will break ground Saturday on a new military lookout station on Yonaguni, Japan’s westernmost inhabited island. Yonaguni, which has a population of around 1,500, is located 108 kilometers east of Taiwan and 150 kilometers south of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. According to Reuters, with the new outpost, Yonaguni’s military presence will expand from two police officers to 100 soldiers and a radar outpost.

A report in the Ryukyu Shimpo said that the base will be built on 25 hectares of land leased from Yonaguni to the Ministry of Defense. In return, the local government will receive around 15 million yen ($150,000) in rent each year. Construction will begin with the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, and is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2015.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said in a press conference Tuesday that Japan “decided to deploy a GSDF (Ground Self-Defense Force) unit on Yonaguni Island as a part of our effort to strengthen the surveillance over the southwestern region.” The new outpost will house radar equipment. As a result, it is expected to increase Japan’s surveillance capabilities both over the disputed islands and the areas close to the Chinese mainland.

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