Japan has switched on a radar station near the disputed islands in the East China Sea, drawing an angry response from Beijing, Reuters reports.
The new Self Defence Force base on the island of Yonaguni is at the western end of a string of Japanese islands in the East China Sea, 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
China has raised concerns with its neighbors and in the West with its assertive claim to most of the South China Sea where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims. Japan has long been mired in a territorial dispute with China over the East China Sea islands.
“Until yesterday, there was no coastal observation unit west of the main Okinawa island. It was a vacuum we needed to fill,” said Daigo Shiomitsu, a Ground Self Defence Force lieutenant colonel who commands the new base on Yonaguni.
“It means we can keep watch on territory surrounding Japan and respond to all situations.”
Shiomitsu on Monday attended a ceremony at the base with 160 military personnel and around 50 dignitaries.
Construction of some buildings, which feature white walls and traditional Okinawan red-tiled roofs, is still unfinished.
The 30 square kilometer (11 square mile) island is home to 1,500 people, who mostly raise cattle and grow sugar cane.
The Self Defence Force contingent and family members will increase the population by a fifth.
“This radar station is going to irritate China,” said Nozomu Yoshitomi, a professor at Nihon University and a retired major general in the Self Defence Force.
In addition to being a permanent intelligence gathering post, the facility could be used a base for military operations in the region, he added.
China’s defense ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters about the radar station, said the international community needed to be on high alert to Japan’s military expansion.
“The Diaoyu Islands are China’s inherent territory. We are resolutely opposed to any provocative behavior by Japan aimed at Chinese territory,” it said.
“The activities of Chinese ships and aircraft in the relevant waters and airspace are completely appropriate and legal.”
The listening post fits into a wider military build-up along the island chain, which stretches 1,400 km from the Japanese mainland.
– Contact us at [email protected]