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GSDF units being considered for southern islands

Date Posted: 2010-07-22

Ishigaki, Miyako and Yonaguni islands may see an influx of Japan Ground Self Defense Force troops on the ground within 5-8 years if the Defense Minister has his way.

Senior ministry officials say they’re considering assigning GSDF units to Okinawa Prefecture’s southernmost islands to perform border security and coastal monitoring, citing concerns about increased activity in the region by Chinese naval vessels. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa says he’ll seek funding in fiscal 2011 to begin conducting preliminary surveys in advance of deploying the GSDF in the Sakishima island chain, which includes the Miyako and Yaeyama chain. Ishigaki and Yonaguni are in the Yaeyama chain.

There is currently little GSDF presence in the prefecture, with none in the southernmost region. The plan would send a few hundred GSDF members to provide border security to Ishigaki and Miyako islands and another 100 to Yonaguni Island. The troops would be phased in incrementally. The Yonaguni coastal monitoring unit, which would use radar and electronic surveillance, will be modeled on the 301st Coast Observation Unit now in Wakkanai, Hokkaido. Defense ministry officials say concerns and objections from Taiwan and China will be negated by placing lightly armed units on Yonaguni Island, then gradually beefing up Ishigaki and Miyako islands with infantry personnel.

Kitazawa’s initial objective is to get money to get troops into the Sakishima island chain that includes Miyako and Yaeyama island groups, and which is close to the Senkaku Islands administered by Japan but also claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu, and Taiwan, which has named them Tiaoyutai. He says the building is part of the national defense program outline and midterm defense buildup program, which would provide personnel to cope with disasters as well as conducting warning and surveillance operations.

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