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Japan Upgrades Missiles To Challenge China

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Japan is planning to upgrade its missile defense capabilities to prevent Chinese incursions into waters around disputed islands in the East China Sea.

China has dramatically increased its presence around the Senkaku Islands — islands administered by Japan but claimed by China. China refers to the islands as the Diaoyu Islands. The entry of a Chinese frigate, several hundred fishing vessels, and a number of armed coast guard ships into Japanese-controlled waters have escalated this decades-old territorial dispute and raised regional tensions.

Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, reported Sunday Japan is considering enhancing the long-range defense capabilities of the country’s Self Defense Forces (SDF). The report argued, “Unless Japan strengthens its deterrence, the Chinese military’s actions around the Senkaku Islands may become a more constant threat.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun article indicated new surface-to-ship missiles with a range of 186 miles will be installed on Miyako Island and several locations in the Sakishima Islands to establish a defensive barrier to prevent Chinese military vessels from entering Japanese waters. As the Senkaku Islands are only 105 miles from Miyako Island, the upgrades would create an effective shield.

When Yomiuri Shimbun reported on the possibility of missile upgrades, the Japanese government had yet to confirm the reports, but that has since changed.

A Ministry of Defense official confirmed in a phone interview that Japan will indeed upgrade its missile defense systems to better protect its territorial holdings and prevent violations of its national sovereignty. It may take several years for Japan to complete the planned surface-to-air missile upgrades.

In most cases, governments often assert that defensive military upgrades and training exercises are not directed at any individual country, but the Japanese Ministry of Defense very clearly stated that the primary purpose of the upgrades is to counter the growing threat from China.

“China’s navy is growing stronger. It is now much stronger than it was ten years ago. China is shifting its power towards the Senkaku Islands, as well as Okinawa and other Japanese islands. Ground-to-sea missiles will help us shift the power back and allow Japan to defend itself,” explained an official.

China is already criticizing the move.

Global Times, a state-sponsored Chinese tabloid, explained Monday the Miyako Strait is an international waterway which the Chinese navy uses to access the Pacific Ocean. The paper stated that Japan’s “aggressive plan” could “threaten all Chinese ships in the waters of the Diaoyu Islands,” which China claims as indisputable Chinese territory.

When Japan upgrades its current Type 88 surface-to-ship missiles, which have a range of 93-124 miles, to the new long-range missiles, it will supposedly threaten “freedom of navigation,” Global Times points out.

The Global Times added, “China mustn’t accept Japan’s unilateral move to block the Miyako Strait…A militarized Miyako Island should be the target of Chinese military forces, which could consider annihilating the military base in a war with Japan.”

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