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Japanese Aegis cruiser port call evokes opposing views

Date Posted: 2011-03-13

An Aegis cruiser “Atago” of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force was greeted by protesters and defenders of the visiting vessel as it entered Ishigaki Port late last week.

It was the first port call of a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship since two minesweepers visited in February, causing a pacifist group in Ishigaki City to voice fear that “The visit is preparation for deployment of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan to Sakishima islands in the Miyako-Yaeyama island group.”

Also on hand were members of the Yaeyama Defense Association who confirmed expectations that “We hope that Japan will think about defense of Sakishima islands.”

Small launch boats belonging to the Maritime Self-Defense Force came alongside the pier at Ishigaki Port, and disembarked about 150 Atago crewmen in the morning. Masamichi Shiohira (78) who lives in Ishigaki City, and participated in protest action, was furious, saying “It is teachings of the Okinawa war that armed forces defend the country; however, they don’t defend inhabitants. That is our war experience.”

Sachiko Fujii, 63, who lives in Ishigaki City asked “Are they coming here for recreation using our tax money? I can’t only conclude that it is herald for deployment for Sakishima of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan.”

The president of Yaeyama Defense Association, 69-year-old Iwao Miki, believes “It is important that for the defense of Sakishima, deployment for Yonaguni of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan is the ‘point’, it is going to “line” by deployment of Ishigaki, and then, it is going to “the surface” by deployment of the Maritime Self-Defense Force.” The 51-year-old chairman of Ishigaki City Assembly, Takanobu Iramina, said “I know that contents of duty of an Aegis cruiser bear under the ideology of exclusively defensive security policy, and understand its importance.”

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