Japan doubles number of F-15s on Okinawa amid Senkaku incursions by China

AFP-JIJI, JIJI

Japan has doubled the number of F-15 fighter jets deployed on the southern island of Okinawa, near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.

The Air Self-Defence Force now has about 40 F-15s on Okinawa’s Naha base, the ministry said.

The move comes as Japan and China have routinely clashed over ownership of the Senkakus, which are administered by Japan. Beijing also claims the uninhabited islands, which are known as the Diaoyus in China.

Chinese ships — mostly coast guard vessels — and aircraft have routinely approached the islets since their effective nationalization by Tokyo in 2012 to back up Beijing’s claims and test Japan’s response.

“This is a very front line of national defense,” Deputy Defense Minister Kenji Wakamiya said during a Sunday ceremony at the Naha base to mark the creation of a new unit composed of the extra jets.

The Defense Ministry moved roughly 20 F-15s from the Tsuiki base in the southwestern island of Kyushu to Naha, it said.