Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

Taiwan looms large as Japan prepares to host G7 leaders

Taiwan looms large as Japan prepares to host G7 leaders

At Japan's Naha airbase in Okinawa, the roar of F-15 fighter jets dwarfs the sound of commercial planes that share the same runway.
Three jets take off one after the other to start the day's training, mostly scenarios involving combat and aircraft interception - some have gone on "real life scrambles" or emergency calls to intercept suspected Chinese aircraft.

These routine exercises have taken on a new sense of urgency, according to Lt Col Masatoshi Tanaka.

"We're very nervous," he says. "We've been facing airspace violations of Japanese territory every day. Chinese activities have expanded in number and quality. They involve UAVs [drones], bombers and reconnaissance planes. There are many active aircraft carriers in this area."

Naha is part of the Okinawa island chain, which is on the frontline of any potential conflict between China and the self-ruled island of Taiwan. The territory, which Beijing claims and has vowed to take by force if necessary, has become one of the biggest flashpoints in the world, especially as tensions soar between the US and China.

As China becomes more assertive, Taiwan's security has become a growing concern for Japan, which is hosting the G7 summit in Hiroshima this weekend. And with China expected to dominate the agenda at the summit, Japan's role as a key player in building regional stability has only grown.

The war in Ukraine and an increasingly volatile Indo-Pacific has pushed Japan to a "crucial position in the alignment of powers," according to Yoko Iwama, a professor of international relations at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

"We are the linchpin of the network of American alliances and partnerships in the region and I think the Americans are aware of that," she said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has certainly been making moves to reflect that. In March, Japan normalised diplomatic ties with South Korea after years of terse silence in what has been hailed as a "new chapter".

That same month, Mr Kishida met India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then made a surprise visit to Ukraine and pledged $30m (£24m) in non-lethal military aid.

Under him, Japan has announced the biggest military build-up since World War Two, pledging to double defence spending by 2027 - which would give it the third largest defence budget in the world. This illustrates both Tokyo's urgent need to show that it can defend itself, and also help its closest ally, the US.

Any defence scenario will involve the US, and Okinawa is home to the biggest concentration of US troops in Japan, but the country also needs to show that it can put up a fight. The hope is that this would be enough to deter Beijing and avoid a conflict in the region.

But Japan is close enough to feel the ripples of a conflict that it does not want, but could be pulled into.

When China's military rehearsed "sealing off" Taiwan during three days of military drills in April, Japan's defence ministry said a Chinese aircraft carrier was some 230km (145 miles) south of Miyako Island, also part of the Okinawa chain.

When a furious China fired missiles after former US house speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit last year, at least five landed less than 100km from the westernmost Japanese island of Yonaguni.

"Geographically speaking we're very close to Taiwan and South East Asia, we feel a sense of crisis," says Yoshitaka Nakayama, the mayor of Ishigaki. The island is about an hour's flight from the Naha airbase and is a picturesque haven known for fishing and agriculture. Its white sands and crystal blue waters have long attracted holidaymakers and snorkelling fans.

Now, Ishigaki is also home to Japan's Self-Defence Forces' (SDF) newest military base. As farmers tend to their crops in the fields around it, soldiers man the gates and cranes and bulldozers move bits of earth as construction continues.

Mr Nakayama says they need to protect themselves: "Chinese ships are patrolling very closely. The equipment we have in terms of missile launchers is for defending ourselves. It's to protect us in case there are planes or ships that want to attack us. We're not looking for war."

Earlier this year nearly 600 troops moved here, including squads capable of launching land-to-ship and land-to-air missiles into the East China sea and beyond.

Ishigaki and the neighbouring chain of islands are in close proximity to two flashpoints. One is the uninhabited Senkaku Islands which Japan controls but China also claims under the name Diaoyu Islands. The other is Taiwan, which is 200km away.

And Russia's invasion of Ukraine has heightened fears of a potential Chinese attack. As the war rages on there, parallels have been drawn on this side of the world.

There are some similarities, according to Prof Iwama.

"The leader type: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. But also the claim that a land that is controlled by someone else is yours," she said. "People see this and are afraid it could happen here."

She adds that watching large parts of Ukraine being bombed and shelled has brought up memories of World War Two. "You could relate to what was happening," Prof Iwama says.

But those memories have also angered people in Ishigaki who fear that their home might once again be caught up in conflict. Okinawa, after all, was the site of a historic battle between the US and the Japanese armies.

Now, nearly eight decades later, a military base has renewed those fears, splitting a once close-knit community.

When 85-year-old Setsuko Yamazato, who lost four members of her family in WW2, heard that a military base was being built in Ishigaki, she gathered a "group of grandmas" to speak out against it.

"The first thing that came to my mind was 'not again'," she says.

Now, she and the others turn up outside the base every week to protest. With her cane in one hand and a banner saying "give our children a peaceful future" in the other, she chants, stopping at times to cough and take a breath.

"The SDF are coming to the island. They're building a missile base here," she chants. "Our island is protected by the God of Miroku, not by the military."

As someone who experienced war in her early life, she says she does not want to witness another in her old age.

"I don't want this island to become a battlefield," she says.

"We've been nurtured by the nature and culture of this island. I don't want that to be destroyed or stolen by war."
Newsletter

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
0:00
0:00
Close
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
×