National / Politics

GSDF launches new bases in Kagoshima and Okinawa for defense of Japan's southwestern islands

JIJI, Staff Report

The Ground Self-Defense Force launched new camps on Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture on Tuesday, as part of its moves to enhance the defense of southwestern islands in the country.

The camps will take charge of first response in the case of an emergency and serve as key footholds for related operations.

The GSDF continues to revamp its organization in response to military threats from China, although the Defense Ministry has officially denied that is the purpose.

“Our defense policy is not developed with a military threat from a particular country in mind,” Defense Ministry spokesman Hajime Aoyagi said during a news briefing Tuesday.

“That being said, the southwestern islands span a large area of 1,200 kilometers and there is a lack of a Self-Defense Forces presence except for the main island of Okinawa and Yonaguni Island” located close to Taiwan, he added.

The new GSDF camps will be “very important” in “filling in the lack” of SDF personnel in the area, as well as ramping up first response efficiency should an emergency, such as a natural disaster happen, he added.

A total of about 560 troops, drawn from a security unit and surface-to-air and surface-to-ship missile units, are to be stationed at the Amami Oshima camp.

At the Miyako camp, 380 security unit personnel will be deployed by the end of this month. Surface-to-air and surface-to-ship missile unit personnel will be deployed there in fiscal 2019 from April or later, bringing the total number of GSDF troops at the camp to between 700 and 800.

For the defense of the southwestern islands, the GSDF set up a coastal security unit on Yonaguni Island in Okinawa in 2016. Last year, an amphibious unit was launched in Nagasaki Prefecture for the protection of remote islands.

Work to build a camp on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa was recently started.

On Tuesday, the GSDF also carried out an organizational revision to reinforce its rapid deployment unit. In addition, to step up cyberdefense, a unit was set up at the Western Army in Kumamoto Prefecture.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5