Japan deploys missiles on strategic strait

By Sun Xiaobo Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-7 1:38:01

Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force has deployed surface-to-ship missiles on Okinawa's Miyako Island in an unprecedented move that experts say is targeted at blocking the Chinese navy.

The Type 88 missiles arrived at Hirara Port on the island by ferry earlier Wednesday from a base in Hokkaido and are scheduled to be deployed to a radar site on Miyako Island, Japan's defense officials said, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The missile deployment is part of Japan's ongoing military exercises in Okinawa and Kyushu from November 1 to 18, which include a drill on capturing an island. Japan has not released its specific plan for using the missiles during the drills.

The delivery of the missiles was delayed for around an hour due to locals attempting to block the weapons from entering the port, condemning the exercise as dangerous, unnecessary and not in their best interest.

Miyako Island lies around 250 kilometers away from the Miyako strait, through which Chinese navy travels to the West Pacific. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that the simulation targeted no specific country, Japan's national broadcaster NHK reported at the weekend, according to South China Morning Post.

However, people in China do not see it that way.

"The missile deployment is mainly set against China and it can pose real threats to the Chinese navy," Li Jie, a Chinese navy military expert, told the Global Times.

The Miyako strait is 250 kilometers long and the firing range of the missiles is 150 kilometers at the maximum, which makes it easy for Japan to cut off the sea transport if they deploy them at both ends of the strait, Li said.

However, while the strait serves as the most convenient path for the Chinese navy to travel to the West Pacific as its width and water depth are suitable for large ships, there are still many other straits for such voyages, Li added.

The relationship between Beijing and Tokyo has been strained after Japan's so-called nationalization of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in September last year.

Meanwhile, the atrocities carried out by Japan during its colonial rule in World War II remain a source of anger in both China and South Korea.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday that the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inherits the Murayama statement on the country's wartime conduct, specifically the apologetic sentence, South Korea's KBS reported.

Kishida told the House of Councilors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Abe also stands by the line, which says Japan "through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations."

This came as South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in an interview with the BBC on Monday that she sees no point in a sit-down with Abe while Tokyo refuses to apologize for "past wrongdoings."

While Japanese media see Kishida's statement as Japan's efforts to allay the concerns of China and South Korea, Lü Yaodong, a Japan expert with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that people should not read too much into his comment.

"Kishida made the statement only when asked by the Democratic Party at the session and such recognition of the Murayama statement makes it hard to convince its neighbors and the rest of the world that the country has fully realized its wartime atrocities," Lü said.

Amid the soured relations, bilateral exchange rebounded. Statistics released by Japan's travel watchdog showed that in September Chinese tourists visiting Japan increased by 28.5 percent year-on-year.

Agencies contributed to this story

Posted in: Diplomacy, Military

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