More troops to guard southern isles

The Defense Agency plans to increase ground forces in Okinawa Prefecture by about 850 troops to 2,300 to shore up defense of remote southwestern islands, sources said Monday.

The move could irritate China, because the plan is designed to deal with possible threats to such islands as those in the disputed Senkaku chain claimed by China.

The move marks a major shift in Japan’s defense policy, which has placed importance on defending the north from threats posed by the former Soviet Union.

The plan has been incorporated into a final report drawn up by an agency panel, which will serve as the basis for an updated defense strategy, the National Defense Program Outline, to be compiled by the end of the year.

The new program will focus on Japan’s capability to deal with new threats such as terrorism and guerrilla warfare, while addressing the need to strengthen defense of remote islands.

According to the panel’s final report, an infantry regiment of about 850 troops will be incorporated into the Ground Self-Defense Force’s 1st Combined Brigade in Okinawa to make a new 2,300-member team, the Defense Agency sources said.

Some 40 light armored vehicles, which have been used by GSDF troops mobilized in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah for reconstruction assistance, will be assigned to the new team to enhance its mobility, the sources said.

Some ground personnel will also be dispatched to Okinawa’s Miyako Island, which only has an Air Self-Defense Force radar station at present, they said.

In addition, the agency plans to set up a communications unit for the GSDF Western Army, which oversees the entire Kyushu region, to enhance its capability to collect information on remote islands, according to the sources.

The Defense Agency is considering replacing F-4 fighters in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, with F-15s and deploying fighter jets on Shimoji Island near Taiwan, the sources said.

Major terror drill staged

KITAKYUSHU (Kyodo) The Japan Coast Guard, police and other organizations on Monday conducted a large-scale antiterrorism drill in the Kammon Strait between Honshu and Kyushu.

Fifteen organizations took part in the drill, the first of its kind in the strait. They deployed 14 vessels and mobilized about 700 officials.

The scenario centered around terrorists boarding a freighter and a ferry to attack Moji port in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, and Shimonoseki port in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

At Moji, coast guard officials boarded the freighter and subdued those playing the role of a knife-wielding foreign crew, and fire crews in protective suits recovered anthraxlike white powder from the ship.

At Shimonoseki port, coast guard officials and police boarded the ferry in which officials playing terrorists were holed up, successfully persuading them to surrender.