Japan is bolstering its defense of a group of East China Sea islets that are also claimed by Taiwan and China, and other far-flung isles, with the establishment of a special police unit armed with automatic weapons, the public broadcaster NHK reported yesterday.
The police unit will be based on the southern island of Okinawa, which is 420km east of the disputed outcrops, which are controlled by Japan and known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in Taiwan and China.
“Assuming scenarios that include illegal landing by an armed group, highly trained members equipped with submachine guns will be deployed,” NHK said in its report.
It did not identify its sources.
Japan’s military and coastguard have boosted their postures around the disputed islands, but this will be the first time the police have set up a unit in the region to help defend them, NHK said.
No officials were immediately available for comment at the National Police Agency.
The police agency, in a budget request for the year from next April, is asking for 159 additional officers in Okinawa and Fukuoka, another southern prefecture, to boost its capability to respond to situations on remote islands, it said.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) told a briefing yesterday that Beijing hoped Tokyo would act in accordance with their 2014 agreement on improving relations and “effectively strengthen crisis management and control and maintain the stability of the situation in the East China Sea.”
Japan’s relations with China have long been strained by the island row and the legacy of World War II.
In 2012, a group of Chinese activists landed on one of the disputed islets and raised a Chinese flag, to the outrage of Japan.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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