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China Sea crisis: Japan to bolster military base on island idyll that could become front line in event of war


Special report: Kim Sengupta reports from the disputed seas around China, where Japan is building radar, anti-aircraft guns and missile silos to counter what it sees as Chinese aggression


A Japanese Self-Defence Forces' vehicle carrying units of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles leaves a port on Japan's southern island of Ishigaki, Okinawa prefecture Reuters


If war is to break out, then Ishigaki would be the front line. This is the island where Japan feels the most under threat from Chinaand the place it will be installing missiles and troops amid clashes at sea, accusations and recriminations.


While international attention is on whether Games diplomacy in South Korea, with the presence of Kim Jong-un’s sister and henchmen present for the Winter Olympics, will lead to peace breaking out, tension between China and its neighbours have continued to grow.


Throughout last year, while Donald Trump and Kim Jong-untraded public insults, Beijing has been quietly bolstering its presence on the extraordinary chain of artificial isles it has been building in waters near and far taking advantage of what it calls "the strategic window of opportunity.”


Three airfields have been put into its seven bases in the disputed Spratley chain. There, and elsewhere, aerial photographs from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington reveal facilities awash with fortified shelters for warships, hangers for aircraft and radar, underground bunkers and missile emplacement positions.


The Chinese calls a series of archipelagos the "first island chain of defence” stretching in an arc from the South China Seas to Russia’s Kurils. For Japan the most vulnerable point is the Senkaku, to which Beijing has laid claims with surrounding isles, in particular Ishikagi 90 nautical miles away seen as the obvious targets.


Hundreds of fishing boats from China, escorted by coastguard ships, or, at times, warships have been in the seas leading, at times, driving back Japanese fishermen leading to clashes with Japanese coast guards. There has been a recent spate of incursions into airspace by Chinese warplanes and the appearance for the first time, a few weeks ago, of a nuclear attack submarine in these waters.


The Japanese government are now finalising the deployment of missiles batteries, anti-aircraft and anti-ship, radar installations and around 600 troops to Ishigaki.


Final details are likely to emerge next month. The Independent understands the surface to air missiles are likely include American made MIM-104 Patriots capable of taking down Chinese ballistic missiles with enemy vessels being targeted by SSM-1s which carry up to 500lbs of high-explosives and have range of over a hundred miles. There are future plans for a joint missile system involving Japan and Western Europe to be installed in a project involving the British, French and Italian MBDA and Mitsubishi Electrics.


The issue is of China’s supposed attempt at ocean hegemony has led to international reaction.


The US Defence Secretary General James Mattis stressed during a visit to Tokyo that the Washington is fully committed to backing Japan over the Senkakus. On a broader basis, the US has been sending warships through the China Seas to underline the right to freedom of navigation. The British Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced that HMS Sutherland, an anti-submarine ship, will be sailing through the South China Seas. The navies of America, India, Japan and Australia, will be holding naval manoeuvres.


The tiny Senkakus were used in the past by a small Japanese community scratching a living out of bonito fishing and collecting albatross feathers. But they were then abandoned had been lying unpopulated for 78 years with basically scientific and geographical exploration groups the only visitors.


Related video: Shinzo Abe says Japan will work with South Korea and US on pressuring North to stop nuclear tests


That these five islets and three barren rocks, with a total area of just seven kilometres, has become a potential flashpoint for a conflict between two modern industrialised states may be reminiscent of the Jorge Luis Borges’s view that Britain and Argentina going to war over the Falklands was “like two bald men fighting over a comb”.


In fact, there was little interest in the islands, apart from its fishing grounds, until an international survey in 1969 concluded large undersea deposits of oil and natural gas. The following year both China - which calls the islands Diaoyu - and Taiwan began their claims of ownership.


The steady growth of Chinese presence in the seas, say the Japanese, has damaged the country’s fishing industry. Many of Beijing’s coast guard vessels are rebranded warships and some of the crews of Chinese fishing boats, it is claimed, are not fishermen at all, but peoples’ militia in disguise out to provoke. The confrontation means that Ishigaki fishermen like Yukihidi Higa can no longer catch the red snappers and groupers they used to off the Senkakus.

根据日本方面报道,中国在该海域持续增长的存在已经开始危害到了日本的渔业。中国将多艘战舰改造为海岸警卫队船,而且一些中国渔船上也根本不是什么渔民,而是伪装成渔民的军人,他们主要负责驱赶日本的渔民。在发生此类冲突之后,石垣岛渔民,比如Yukihidi Higa,就再也无法前往该海域捕捞红笛鲷和石斑鱼,而在之前,他们经常会到中国钓鱼岛进行捕捞。

“Of course it has affected my earnings, I can no longer go there because of the Chinese and their big ships” he stated. “ But they are not just taking the fish, most of the coral from the sea has been stripped over the years, this is not good for marine life.”


The missile deployment comes at a time of great controversy in Japan as premier Shinzo Abe seeks to revise Japan’s post-Second World War pacifist constitution mandated, he holds, by a strong election victory. Last month, his cabinet approved an increase of 1.3 per cent in the annual military budget raising it to a record $ 45.8 billion for the year.


The military deployment is also going to be a key factor in Ishigaki’s municipal election next month. “This is certainly going to be part of my campaign. It is of course a very important topic and it needs to be discussed fully and the city will have to agree on providing the land ” said Yoshitaka Nakayama, the mayor.

而且, 该军事部署对下个月举行的石垣市选举也会产生巨大影响。石垣市市长中山义隆表示“该军事部署肯定会成为我竞选的一部分。这是个重要的事宜,需要在整个城市进行讨论,而居民则需要提供部署导弹的土地。”

“I am in favour of the deployment by our Self Defence Forces (SDF). We have seen the Chinese behave very aggressively, they are coming into our territorial waters, our fishermen have been prevented from fishing, our coastguards are having lots of problems, we have seen their planes fly into our airspace. Putting the missile systems here will act as a warning, it may stop Chinese aggression and a conflict in the future.”


The military was a key issue in the election in Nago, the capital of the Okinawa prefecture, last week in the defeat of the incumbent Mayor Susumu Inamine, by Taketoyo Toguchi, a candidate backed by Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

军事部署在选举中是一个关键事宜。上周,市长稻岭进在冲绳县名护的选举活动中失利,而由安倍自由民主党所支持的候选人Taketoyo Toguchi则胜出。

The Mayor had been an opponent of a US Marines base remaining in Okinawa. Mr Toguchi wanted them to stay and backed a plan by Washington and Tokyo to relocate it from a central urban area to one less populated.


For Yoshiyuki Toita, the secretary general of the Yaeyama Defence Association the result showed “that attitudes are changing: people are beginning to see the dangers posed by China, which is following an expansionist policy. If the Japanese government and the SDF do nothing it will send the wrong message and the Chinese will feel even bolder.”

八重山防卫协会秘书长Yoshiyuki Toita表示“人们的态度正在发生转变,在中国开始执行扩张政策后,他们开始意识到了中国的危险。如果日本政府和自卫队无所作为,那中国将会更加有恃无恐。”

The defence associations across Japan are private groups which claim to be independent of government. Mr Toita, however, is a member of Mayor Nakayama’s campaign and will be spreading his message in support of the military deployment." This is about security. We have achieved good things here in Ishigaki and we must protect this community and Japan.”


Many are apprehensive, however, that the achievements may be put at risk by militarisation. Subtropical Ishigaki, with its mountains and mangrove forests, beaches and birdlife, has, somewhat surprisingly for a place not widely known, topped TripAdvisor’s “Destinations on the Rise” in the Travellers’ Choice awards.

但是,很多人认为该军事部署可能推动日本的军事化。地处亚热带,拥有红树林、海滩和各种鸟类的石垣市,是一个并不是人们熟知的地方,但是在旅行者偏爱奖“Destinations on the Rise”中位居榜首。

“We have definitely seen a steady rise in tourism and this growth has taken place despite this place being so remote. The new airport has been a great plus factor” said Hiro Uehara, the owner of a bar and restaurant.

酒吧旅店老板Hiro Uehara 说“我们明显发现,该地区的旅游正在实现稳定增长。而最新建设的机场也为这个地方加分不少。”

“We are getting Japanese, Australians and people from the West now. But would the foreigners want to come if this place turns into a place with missiles and soldiers and so a target for the Chinese government if there is trouble? We are also getting lots of Chinese tourists, would they come in the future? What about the safety of our children? No, there are too many military bases in Okinawa. We don’t want another one.”

“我们正在吸引来自日本、澳大利亚和西方国家的游客。但是,一旦这个地方出现了导弹和士兵,并成为了中国的攻击目标,那国外游客会不会来,就是个大问题了。而且, 我们同样在吸引来自中国的游客,可是,一旦这里有军事部署,他们还会来吗?况且,军事部署会对我们的孩子带来安全吗?答案显然是否定的。冲绳已经拥有太多的军事基地了,我们再也不想增添一个靶子了。”

Around a dozen coast guard ships are the current line of defence. Captain Kenichi Kikuchi, in command of the Taketomi, wanted to stress that they do their utmost to avoid confrontations. “We are careful , we are careful because we do not want to escalate matters and also have to mind that the Chinese Navy ships as well their coastguard vessels tend to be large” he said. “ But we also do our duty and deal with problems when they arise and make sure we are not outnumbered by the Chinese.”

当前,大约有十几艘海岸警卫队军舰停靠在防线上。负责守卫竹富岛的长官Kenichi Kikuchi希望能够最大程度上降低两国之间的冲突。“我们很小心谨慎,因为我们不想要升级这里的紧张态势,而且,我们也注意到,中国海军和海岸警卫队的实力在逐渐增强。但是,我们有义务处理两国之间的问题,并确保中国不会对日本形成军事优势。”

It is not all confrontation; there is also cooperation, he pointed out, describing how the coast guard helped rescued six Chinese fishermen two years ago after their boat had capsized following a collision with a Greek ship. What will happen when the missiles and troops are deployed? “That is a decision for the Japanese government and the Self Defence Forces. They will decide what is right. But it could become very interesting.”


原创翻译:龙腾网 http://www.ltaaa.com 翻译:wolface 转载请注明出处

Matt Daley
Japan - the Pentagon's pet paranoid p00fters!


Franz Ferdinand
Japanese will be happy to die for America.


Franz Ferdinand
Japan has territorial problems with all neighbours: China, Russia, North and South Korea. It seems WWII lessons were not enough.
with Taiwan too.


global citizen
Typical state sponsored fake narrative to propagate lucrative American arms sales to its obedient proxies. Yep, the Japanese being misled by fake narratives like these to buy more weapons and die on behalf of the Americans, in wars that the American are creating around the world in order to sell its weapons.


Waste of money. There will be no frontlines in a future war with China, just a quick mutual annihilation.


PM Abe is a warmonger, and even wants to change the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution outlawing war.


He is a dangerous man.


I dont like his shade of politics, but he knows the threat Japan faces with China and how it needs to modernise its military and be prepared.


Remember until China started on the artificial islands, Japans military budget had been declining for years. It is China that has started the re-arming of Asia with the threats they are making and ensuring all countries stop being so complacent and start getting prepared to defend themselves.


You might be right.


However, I don't care who started. All countries on our planet must stop, threatneing and aggravating any country then we never fight each other and no need of military/ weapons.


Yes it's a sad dream we are living in.....


The Tiaoyutai were part of Taiwan before 1895.


Japan seized Taiwan after the first Sino-Japanese war.


So the islands are, de jure, Taiwanese.


This aggressive Chinese militarisation is a direct consequence of the West's stupid decision 40 odd years ago to trade with a brutal repressive communist dictatorship. I hope all those cheap socks and plastic rubbish were worth it


When was the last time China invaded Japan? Not since Kubilai Khan! When was the last time Japan invaded China? 1937. Committed vast atrocities, too.


Then again China invaded Tibet in 1950.


And it invaded Vietnam too. Even now it wants to take a valley from Bhutan and move the border with India.


...and now large parts of Mongolia are Chinese controlled and even marked on maps as Chinese Mongolia. Having been in China recently they see anything as up for grabs.


That is true, but that atrocious crime is in the past, it does not mean that Japan has no right to defend itself today


Japan has been set up by America to be its proxy in their battle against China being a success. The self inflicted blindness of Japan’s political class towards USAs plan, is as bad as when the Emperor was building up Japan to battle and rule the world.


"Hitler here, Hitler there, Hitler, Hitler, everywhere!"


If you know history, you will know the future.


Bigot Free Zone
It's China's time to shine, they are in their ascendancy and the US and their puppy-dogs tail little England need to learn this before they get their fingers burnt. And as long as Japan behaves itself I am sure the Chinese will not unleash the brutality which Japan used on the Chinese in the previous centuries.


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