TOKYO: Destroyers, fighter jets and 34,000 troops are to take part in a huge exercise aimed at bolstering Japan’s ability to protect its remote islands amid a territorial spat with China.
The wargames, which will include live-firing, come as Tokyo steps up its global public relations campaign by posting videos it hopes will swing world opinion behind its claims to two archipelagos that are the focus of disputes with Beijing and Seoul.
The air-sea-land drill from November 1 to 18 will involve amphibious landings on the uninhabited atoll of Okidaitojima, 400 kilometers southeast of the main Okinawan island, a defense ministry official said.
Live-fire exercises involving destroyers and F-2 fighter jets will also be conducted, he said.
The island is a considerable distance from the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims as the Diaoyus.
However, defense force chiefs are considering deploying short-range land-to-sea missiles on the island of Ishigaki, which lies 150 kilometers from the disputed islands, the Asahi and Fuji TV networks said. Both broadcasters said there were no plans to fire weaponry there.
Chinese state-owned ships have sparred with Japanese coastguard boats repeatedly in waters around the Senkakus since Tokyo nationalized three islands in the chain.
Beijing’s boats have frequently been warned off after sailing into waters Japan considers its preserve.
Fighter jets and warships from both sides have also been in the area on numerous occasions, leading some observers to warn of the danger of an armed conflict that could draw the United States in and have disastrous consequences for the region.
November’s drill is aimed at “maintaining and improving the joint operational abilities of the Self-Defense Forces in armed-attack situations,” the Self Defense Forces (military) joint staff said in a statement.