Japan and the US are planning a joint naval exercise in southwestern Japanese waters later this year near islets disputed with Taiwan and China, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported yesterday.
The war games in December, to be joined by the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, are based on a scenario involving Japan recapturing an unnamed remote southwestern island from an enemy, the paper reported without citing sources.
Japan is to send fighters and patrol planes, as well as 250 paratroopers from transport planes guarded by F-15 fighters in the drill in Oita Prefecture, near Okinawa, the report said.
PHOTO: AFP/JIJI PRESS
The US and Japan usually stage their naval exercises east of Japan in the Pacific Ocean.
A Pentagon report warned this week that China’s rising defense power is changing East Asia’s military balance, a view shared by Japan, which has protested over several tense naval incidents with China this year.
Tokyo protested in April after a Chinese naval helicopter made a close fly-by of one of its destroyers on the high seas off the uninhabited Diaoyutais (釣魚台) — which are called Senkaku in Japan — during exercises.
A similar incident took place near the Ryukus in the same month, when 10 Chinese naval vessels, including two submarines, were seen sailing through international waters between Japan’s southernmost islands.
Japan’s defense ministry has said it will review the basing of its ground forces in coming years to strengthen the defense of the southwestern islands.
Meanwhile, Japanese foreign ministry press secretary Kazuo Kodama said the Senkaku are subject to the Japan-US security treaty, stressing that the allies would “respond together” to any attack there.
“We have not been notified by the United States that it has changed its stance” on the handling of the islands, Kodama said.
“It is natural that Japan and the United States respond together” if the islands are attacked, he said.
VIEW FROM TAIPEI
The Ministry of National Defense said it was verifying the report on the drills, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reiterated Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais.
Deputy foreign ministry spokesman James Chang (章計平) said if the joint military exercise is to take place near the Diaoyutais, the ministry wanted to make clear that the atolls are the territory of the Republic of China (ROC) and there was no doubt that the ROC government has sovereignty over the islands.
Chang urged all involved to set their differences aside and seek acceptable solutions through rational and peaceful means.
In related news, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan met his military chiefs yesterday ahead of a review that could lead to the biggest changes in defense policy in years, including easing restraints imposed by the Constitution drawn up after World War II.
A panel of experts is likely to issue recommendations this month for a policy review expected to be finished by year-end, with media reports saying it will urge Japan to to beef up its ability to respond to multiple attacks and also review a defense posture that relies heavily on the US nuclear deterrent.
“The role of the Self-Defense Forces is becoming increasingly important for the peace of Japan,” Kan said. “I want you to give me your candid views.
Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters after the meeting that Kan and the four chiefs of staff discussed issues including North Korea and China, but he did not elaborate.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KO SHU-LING, VINCENT Y. CHAO AND STAFF WRITER
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