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Japan Is Fortifying Its Small Islands Against China

June 23, 2014

Iron Fist 2014

As previously noted here at 21AAR, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) is taking steps to repel a possible Chinese invasion in the near future.

Even if the Japanese mainland is not threatened, the smaller uninhabited islands hundreds of kilometers away like the disputed Senkakus are potential flashpoints.

To anticipate this crisis scenario, Tokyo is laying the groundwork to legitimize and strengthen its hold on its farthest territories.

Additional plans include the creation of a special marine brigade for amphibious operations–the Western Army Infantry Regiment is an ideal candidate for the role–complete with new AAV-7 transports, wheeled tank destroyers, and V-22 Ospreys. Another tactic is building outposts on other islands to discourage Chinese claims, like the radar installation on Yonaguni near Taiwan.

The air and maritime branches of the Self-Defense Forces are being outfitted for the same likelihood where China forcibly seizes any islands.

Proof is the scheduled commissioning of large Hyuga-class assault ships. These vessels represent Tokyo’s new found confidence in its armed might. Coupled with six additional diesel submarines (as mentioned in the MOD’s Defense Posture Review) for long range patrols, Japan’s emerging naval muscle has never been better suited for squaring off against an industrialized regional power.

Simmering Tension

Just last week, Japan and China traded barbs after a non-lethal confrontation between PLA SU-27s and Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) F-15s. The incident became the latest public tangle between the East Asian rivals. Rather than deny Chinese accusations of harassment, Japan’s MOD went a step further by publishing its records of PLA activities near the Senkakus, with details on routes, aircraft types, and dates.

Coincidentally, the JASDF is marking its 60th anniversary on July 1. As relations with China deteriorate, Japan’s small but well-equipped defense forces could be transformed over the years to fight offensively.

Much of the JASDF’s current inventory was provided in the 1980s. As a staunch US ally, the JASDF received the latest aircraft and often preferential licensing deals to manufacture local models of US fighter jets. Examples are Mitsubishi’s variants of the F-86 Sabre, the F-15J, and the F-16 Falcon.

The bulk of the JASDF’s combat aircraft today are divided between less than 100 aging F-4 Phantoms, 100 F-16’s, and 145 F-15’s.

The JASDF is also a future recipient of the F-35 JSF, which deploys within the next few years and takes the F-15J’s place as Japan’s cutting edge fighter deterrent.

There is a possibility that Japan, like China, may resort to building physical infrastructure and “hard sites” on its distant islands. But since the construction of such hasn’t been announced, no proof yet exists that this is being done.

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