KUMAMOTO (Kyodo) Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa visited a Ground Self-Defense Force base Wednesday in Kumamoto to observe preparations for a drill on running a joint U.S. command post aimed at beefing up security around islands in southwestern Japan.

Kitazawa’s visit to Camp Kengun of the GSDF’s Western Army, which came a day before Japan and the United States were to begin the exercise, underlined the importance the administration is placing on defending the islands.

The five-year midterm defense buildup program adopted late last month includes the deployment of GSDF coastal monitoring units in the Nansei Islands near China and Taiwan.

Scenarios for the joint drill starting Thursday involve an invasion and other types of attacks in the Nansei Islands, which are in both Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures.

The exercise is scheduled to last until Feb. 3.

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