The head of the US Pacific Command on Wednesday made his first visit to a Japanese radar station on the edge of the disputed East China Sea that Japan opened last year to the anger of China.
US Admiral Harry Harris visited the Yonaguni Coast Observation Unit on the southernmost of the Ryukyu Islands at the invitation of Japan Self-Defense Forces Chief of Staff Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, the US Pacific Command said.
The visit was the first by either official to the station, Pacific Command said in a statement, adding that in discussions in Tokyo the previous day, the two men stressed the importance of cooperation to address the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.
Japan opened the facility on Yonaguni last year, giving it a permanent intelligence-gathering post close to Taiwan, and to a group of islands disputed by Tokyo, Beijing and Taipei.
The move drew an angry response from China, whose help the US has been soliciting to help rein in North Korea.
The base is at the western extreme of a string of Japanese islands in the East China Sea, 150km south of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkakus in Japan.
Japan has been mired in a territorial dispute with China over the islands and Beijing has raised concerns among other neighbors with its assertive claim to most of the adjoining South China Sea, where Taiwan has virtually identical claims.
China has accused Japan of hypocrisy in opening the base while criticizing Beijing’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea.
The Japanese listening post fits into a wider military buildup along the Ryukyu island chain, which stretches 1,400km from the Japanese mainland.
Japanese policymakers have said it is part of a strategy to keep China at bay in the Western Pacific as Beijing increases its control over the South China Sea.
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