Japan’s Self-Defence Forces and the US Army have bilaterally drafted a joint operation plan that will enable setting up an ‘attack base’ in southwest Nansei or Ryukyu island chain in Tokyo. In the event of a Taiwan contingency, Japan and the United States military troops will be able to launch the joint military operation from the country’s southwest, Japanese government sources have told the state’s Kyodo news agency. The two nations’ militaries will formalise an operation plan when their foreign and defence chiefs meet in early January under the “two-plus-two” framework, the agency reports, adding that the initiative is likely to draw a backlash from China which regards the self-ruled island as a renegade province.
Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force mounting a large joint military exercise with US on Japanese soil for first time in response to China’s recent bearishness on regional security issues. [Credit: Japan Ground Self-Defense Force]
Countering ‘Chinese aggression’ on strategic waterways
The United States Marines are expected to set up a temporary attack base at the initial stage of a contingency on the Nansei Islands, a chain stretching southwest from the Japanese prefectures of Kagoshima and Okinawa toward Taiwan, sources say. Okinawa hosts at least 28 US military installations including the Yokota Air Base. The fortified island chain at the newly established attack base in the Nansei Islands will help Taiwan’s defense in cross-strait conflict scenario as Japan seeks to boost its defense capabilities to counter the Chinese aggression and military expansion across the Miyako Strait and Bashi Channel, two of the crucial strategic waterways for China.
[Credit: US Army]
The Bashi Channel connects the Pacific with the South China Sea and is located between the Philippines’ northern island of Luzon and the Taiwanese island of Orchid, while Miyako Strait runs between Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa. The two critical chokepoints have seen heavy Chinese military deployment with several defence bases to conduct the Chinese military operations at the so-called first island chain.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been bolstering the military presence to safeguard the critical entry and exit on the two waterways that mark the rim of a chain of major archipelagos starting from the Kuril Islands in East Asia all the way to the coast of northern Japan, and the Philippines in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, leading to Japan’s exclusive economic zone [EEZ]. The narrow choke point serves as a crucial waterway for transit for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) into the Pacific.
Ship-borne J-15 fighter jet prepares to land at the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning (Hull 16) and Chinese Navy flotilla including aircraft carrier Liaoning has conducted a series of exercises in the South China Sea. [Credit: Chinese People’s Liberation Army]
Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (Hull 16) is escorted by the guided-missile destroyers Zhengzhou (Hull 151) and Jinan (Hull 152). [Credit: Chinese People’s Liberation Army]
Sources speculate that the establishment of an attack base on the Nansei island chain would make the island vulnerable to Chinese military attacks and may become the target for the President Xi Jinping regime, as it would mar the effort of unifying Taiwan. But the US military plans to get support from the SDF to send troops to the islands if a Taiwan contingency appears imminent, the sources told Kyodo. In an apparent ‘warning to Japan,’ Liaoning aircraft carrier task group of the PLA Navy crosses the Miyako Strait and the Chinese fighter jets are often seen flying over the Diaoyu Islands escalating tensions between the two nations.
Aircraft carrier Liaoning (Hull 16) and other vessels and fighter jets in the maritime parade conducted by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the South China Sea. [Credit: Zhang Lei/Chinese People’s Liberation Army]
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has also spotted PLA Navy flotilla consisting of six warships, namely the aircraft carrier Liaoning, the Type 055 large destroyer Nanchang, the Type 052D destroyers Chengdu and Taiyuan, the Type 054A frigate Huanggang and the Type 901 comprehensive supply ship Hulunhu, transiting the disputed waters of Okinawa and Miyako Island.