It looks like Japan is finally taking the Chinese military threat in the East and South China Sea seriously.
According to Japanese government officials, Japan will deploy several thousand new troops and missile batteries on islands in the East China Sea. The officials also confirmed that the new defenses are to counter the growing Chinese military presence in the area.
Political analysts note that pressure on Japan from the U.S. to play a larger role in deterring aggressive Chinese naval activity in the South and East China Seas likely played a role in the new deployments. Of note, given its precipitating role in the Second World War, the Japanese military had been legally limited to a modest “self-defense force” until recently.
The new plan involves setting up new anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile batteries on more than 200 islands across the 870 miles from Japan’s western coast towards Taiwan. Apparently, the Japanese military also plans to boost the number of military personnel in the East China Sea by around 20% to around 10,000 over the next few years.
More on Japan military build up in South China Sea
Unnamed Japanese officials who spoke to the media said that this effort by Japan’s conservative prime minister Shinzo Abe to boost Japan’s military reach was a key part of a larger plan to hold China at bay in the Western Pacific.
Keep in mind that after the new anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile batteries are in place, Chinese ships sailing from their east coast must pass by Japanese missile batteries to reach the strategic and now highly contested Western Pacific.
Warships from China or any other nation can sail through the area based on current international law, but all ships will pass by multiple batteries of Japanese missiles, according to a senior Japanese defense official.
Toshi Yoshihara, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, commented that the new deployment meant Tokyo could limit China’s movements through the East China Sea to the Western Pacific, and gives the Western alliance some breathing room in a potential military situation involving China. “You could say Japan is turning the tables on China,” Yoshihara noted.
As reported by ValueWalk, global worries over China’s increasing naval and air force activities in the East China Sea are only exacerbated by the Middle Kingdom’s ongoing construction of manmade islands to serve as military bases in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea.
Although he did not specifically name China in his remarks, Japanese PM Abe warned against attempts to militarize the South China Sea in public comments just a few weeks ago, expressng “serious concerns” over ongoing land reclamation for military purposes.
“First Island Chain” strategy
Military analysts point out that setting up a strong line of missile defenses along a “first island chain” across from Japan’s East China Sea and south through the territorial waters of the Philippines would act as a de facto boundary separating the spheres of influence of the U.S. and China in the Western Pacific.
“In the next five or six years, the first island chain will be crucial in the military balance between China, and the U.S. and Japan,” Satoshi Morimoto, a professor at Takushoku University and ex Japanese defense minister, recently commented in an interview.