The Defense Ministry is expanding Self-Defense Forces units in the Kyushu region — establishing a squadron of F-35B stealth fighters and a surface-to-ship missile unit in the area — as China grows increasingly assertive near Okinawa Prefecture and Taiwan.

The units will be established in fiscal 2024, which starts next April.

While trying to eliminate a "defense vacuum" in the Nansei chain of islands that runs through Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures, the ministry is rushing to beef up deterrence capabilities in Kyushu, which it regards together with the Nansei chain as "a single theater of operations," according to a senior ministry official.