Japan and the US are mulling a joint military drill to simulate retaking a remote island from foreign forces, reports said, amid a festering row between Tokyo and Beijing over disputed islets.
The exercise, part of broader joint maneuvers to start early next month, would use an uninhabited island in Okinawa Prefecture, southernmost Japan, Jiji Press and Kyodo News agencies quoted unidentified sources as saying on Saturday. The drill would involve Japanese and US troops making an amphibious and airborne landing to retake the island using boats and helicopters, Kyodo said.
Japan and China have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of rocky outcrops in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands (世界華人保釣聯盟) in China. Taiwan, which also claims the islands, refers to them as the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台). The Tokyo-administered island chain is uninhabited, but is thought to be sitting on top of valuable resources.
The dispute flared in August and last month with landings by nationalists from both sides and the subsequent nationalization of three of the islands in the archipelago by Tokyo.
The exercise would reportedly use the uninhabited Irisunajima. The tiny island, used as a firing range for US forces, is also in the East China Sea, but hundreds of kilometers away from the disputed island chain.
Jiji said some Japanese and US government officials were cautious about holding the drill, fearing a likely angry response from China.