Sino-Japanese military face-off in East China Sea

Tokyo is preparing to send 100 Self-Defense Force troops to Yonaguni in the Ryukyu Islands, the westernmost point in Japanese territory. The move has prompted protests from the island’s residents. Yonaguni is the closest spot of inhabited land to the Senkaku Islands, also claimed by both China and Taiwan, which call them the Diaoyu Islands. (NYT, Feb. 10) Japanese talks with China over a disputed gas field in the Senkakus have broken down, and Tokyo says it suspects Beijing has started drilling in the field. Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan appealed to Beijing to return to the table and estabish “mutually beneficial strategic relations.” (AFP, Jan. 20) In December, Japan overhauled its defense guidelines, laying plans to purchase five submarines, three destroyers, 12 fighters jets, 10 patrol planes and 39 helicopters. (WSJ, Feb. 12)

Prime Minister Kan has pledged to honor an agreement with the US to keep an air base slated to be relocated within Okinawa, also in the Ryukyu Islands. His predecessor Yukio Hatoyama was forced to step down last June after he reversed himself on a campaign promise to back out of the 2006 agreement to relocate the base off the island. Although both are from the center-left Democratic Party of Japan, Kan has clearly tilted to the right. (FT, June 8, 2010)

See our last posts on Japan, China, Okinawa and the struggle for the East China Sea.

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