Exclusive: Japan’s far-flung island defense plan seeks to turn tables on China

Let us also not forget Tokyo is capable of going nuclear within three months, or possibly quicker now that considerable time has passed by and technical advancements have been made. It’s also been said that they have already been developing a nuclear arsenal.

 

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan is fortifying its far-flung island chain in the East China Sea under an evolving strategy that aims to turn the tables on China’s navy and keep it from ever dominating the Western Pacific Ocean, Japanese military and government sources said.

The United States, believing its Asian allies – and Japan in particular – must help contain growing Chinese military power, has pushed Japan to abandon its decades-old bare-bones home island defense in favor of exerting its military power in Asia.

Tokyo is responding by stringing a line of anti-ship, anti-aircraft missile batteries along 200 islands in the East China Sea stretching 1,400 km (870 miles) from the country’s mainland toward Taiwan.

Interviews with a dozen military planners and government policymakers reveal that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s broader goal to beef up the military has evolved to include a strategy to dominate the sea and air surrounding the remote islands.

FIRST ISLAND CHAIN

As Beijing asserts more control across the nearby South China Sea with almost completed island bases, the string of islands stretching through Japan’s East China Sea territory and south through the Philippines may come to define a boundary between U.S. and Chinese spheres of influence. Military planners dub this the line the “first island chain”.

“In the next five or six years the first island chain will be crucial in the military balance between China and the U.S.- Japan,” said Satoshi Morimoto, a Takushoku University professor who was defense minister in 2012 and advises the current defense chief, Gen Nakatani.

TURNING THE TABLES

Japan’s counter to China in the East China Sea began in 2010, two years before Abe took power.

The predecessor Democratic Party of Japan government pivoted away from protecting the northern island of Hokkaido against a Soviet invasion that never came to defending the southwest island chain.

“The growing influence of China and the relative decline of the U.S. was a factor,” said Akihisa Nagashima, a DPJ lawmaker who as vice minister of defense helped craft that change. “We wanted to do what we could and help ensure the sustainability of the U.S. forward deployment.”

China is investing in precision missiles as it seeks to deter the technologically superior U.S. Navy from plying waters or flying near Taiwan or in the South China Sea.

Beijing in September gave friends and potential foes a peek at that growing firepower in its biggest ever military parade, which commemorated Japan’s World War Two defeat. Making its debut was the Dongfeng-21D, a still untested anti-ship ballistic missile that could potentially destroy a $5 billion U.S. aircraft carrier..

MISSILES BATTERIES, RADAR STATIONS

Over the next five years, Japan will increase its Self-Defense Forces on islands in the East China Sea by about a fifth to almost 10,000 personnel.

Those troops, manning missile batteries and radar stations, will be backed up by marine units on the mainland, stealthy submarines, F-35 warplanes, amphibious fighting vehicles, aircraft carriers as big as World War Two flat-tops and ultimately the U.S. Seventh Fleet headquartered at Yokosuka, south of Tokyo.

Already cooperating closely, the Japanese and U.S. navies will draw closer than ever after Abe’s new security legislation legitimized collective self-defense, allowing Japan to come to the aid of allies under attack.

One crucial change, said Maher: the U.S. and Japanese military can now plan and practice for war together and deliver a “force multiplier”.

Full article: Exclusive: Japan’s far-flung island defense plan seeks to turn tables on China (Yahoo!)

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