The government has begun plans to deploy a Ground Self-Defense Force unit on Amami-Oshima Island as part of efforts to boost defense of remote islands amid the territorial row with China, a government source said.

Similar GSDF units will be stationed on Ishigaki and Miyako islands in Okinawa Prefecture, the source said, with each unit consisting of about 400 personnel.

The government is aiming to complete the deployment no later than March 2019, the source said.

The town of Setouchi on Amami-Oshima, which lies between the southern tip of Kyushu and Okinawa's main island, has also asked for an SDF unit.

Parliamentary Senior Vice Defense Minister Ryota Takeda will go to Amami-Oshima on Wednesday to hold discussions with local officials, the source said.

The GSDF units are expected to be "first responders" if an armed group lands on a remote Japanese-administered island in the region.

They are also expected to engage in relief efforts in the event of large-scale natural disasters.

Permanently stationing SDF units in the southwestern region is included in the government's long-term defense guidelines and medium-term defense program.

The Defense Ministry has earmarked ¥60 million to pay for it.