Yonaguni island lies only 170 kilometers away from the disputed Diaoyutai islands (also known as Senkaku in Japanese) over which Taiwan, China and Japan each claim sovereignty. The Japanese have never stationed troops on the island which has a population of just around 1,600.Yonaguni is close to Taiwan and the Senkakus, the islands have been Japanese since 1895 but which China wants to steal. Is Japan looking at the possibility of conflict over these islands once Taiwan is annexed to China?
Yonaguni town mayor Shiyukichi Hokama and town council speaker Sonkichi Sakihara visited Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada June 30. During the meeting, the councilor asked that troops from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces be garrisoned on the island.
The ministry spokesman said that the government is currently studying this military deployment and that it will be added to the nation’s basic self-defense plans scheduled to be revised at the end of this year.
Ministry officials pointed out that military deployments along southern Kyushu to the First Island Chain that includes Taiwan are an important link in Japan’s southwestern national defense force. The First Island Chain refers to a curved strategic line hemming in China that extends from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines and on to Indonesia.
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces at present have a mixed regiment stationed in Naha, capital of Okinawa Prefecture. At the end of this year, the regiment will be upgraded to the status of brigade, with troop numbers being increased to 2,100 from the current 1,800. At that time, self-defense force troops will be deployed on Yonaguni. (SB)
UPDATE: Taipei Times has commentary on it today too....
Yonaguni lies almost on the same latitude as Hualien, and when the weather is good, it is possible to see Hualien from the island. Yonaguni residents often go to Hualien for shopping on weekends, and some Yonaguni children study in Hualien. It is the Japanese territory closest to Taiwan. Taiwan shields Yonaguni from China, and it lies quite a distance away from the Philippines, so there can only be two reasons for stationing troops there.The US and Japan appear to be preparing for eventualities that could easily have been avoided...
The first reason is that the US and Japan believe there is a very high risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait, and that after an outbreak of war, it is very likely that Chinese military would enter and leave Taiwan on the east coast, which would be the reason for strengthening the military presence on Yonaguni.
This implies that the US and Japan do not buy into the claim by Taiwan’s government that cross-strait tensions have fallen and that the situation has stabilized, and that they are stationing military east of Hualien to prepare for all eventualities.
The second possibility is that the US and Japan feel the accession of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has brought about a fundamental change in the direction of Taiwanese strategy and the two countries are therefore preparing for the possibility that Taiwan would side with China in a hypothetical future conflict between the US and Japan on the one hand, and China on the other.
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