TOKYO: Japan is putting missiles on islands marking the gateway to the Pacific, officials said on Thursday, as part of a huge military drill that has unsettled Beijing.
The exercise, aimed at bolstering Japan’s defence of remote islands, has already seen a launching system and a loader for Type-88 surface-to-ship missiles installed on Miyako island, complete with two missiles.
Four more missiles were due to arrive on the main island of Okinawa later on Thursday. It was not clear how long they would remain in place.
“This is the first time” that missile systems have been taken to Miyako, said a spokesman for the Joint Staff of the Self Defence Forces, adding that the missiles could not be fired in their present state.
“The drill is designed for the defence of islands,” he said.
While the Japanese military makes no secret of the fact these missiles are not operable, observers say their deployment serves to remind anyone watching of Japan’s capabilities.
The Self Defense Forces began their 18 days of war games on November 1, with 34,000 military personnel, six vessels and 360 aircraft.
The exercise comes amid growing nervousness in Japan and other parts of Asia over China’s surging military might, which has seen it expand its naval reach into the Pacific Ocean as it squabbles with Tokyo over the ownership of islands in the East China Sea.
Beijing also has separate disputes with numerous countries over competing claims in the South China Sea. It claims most of the sea as its territory.
Chinese naval assets stationed in the north of the country are somewhat hemmed in by the chain of Japanese islands that separate the East China Sea and the Pacific.
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Japan putting missiles on Pacific gateway islands