Surveillance facility eyed for Pacific

Kyodo

The Defense Ministry plans to build a communications intelligence facility on Iwoto Island in the Pacific to improve its ability to conduct surveillance on China and its growing military presence, a government source said Thursday.

The ministry’s budget request for next fiscal year includes part of the ¥12 billion needed to build the facility, which would come online in fiscal 2017, the source said. Iwoto, about 1,250 km south of Tokyo, used to be known as Iwojima and was the site of a terrible battle during World War II. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera will visit the island early next month.

The ministry has similar facilities at six locations, including in Hokkaido, to intercept communications between ships and aircraft.

China has increased military operations in the Pacific in response to the sovereignty row over the Senkaku Islands, which has strained Japan-China relations. Chinese naval vessels circumnavigated the Japanese archipelago in July for the first time and two Chinese bombers flew to the Pacific earlier this month.

Meanwhile, two Chinese Coast Guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands on Thursday morning, the Japan Coast Guard said. It was the 65th intrusion near the Japanese-controlled islets since the central government purchased most of the chain from their private owner last September, effectively nationalizing them.

Thai security talks

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera discussed security issues Wednesday with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who doubles as defense minister.

The issues included simmering disputes in the South China Sea between China and some ASEAN members, a Thai government spokesman said.

The spokesman, Theerat Ratanasewi, said both sides expressed hope for concrete progress on implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, to move forward talks on forging a legally binding code of conduct to prevent territorial and maritime disputes from flaring up.

The declaration, signed by the foreign ministers of China and ASEAN in 2002, urges claimants to resolve their disputes peacefully “without resorting to the threat or use of force” and to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes.”