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SECURITY > Okinawa

Defense white paper mentions “potential disputed region”

Defense of Japan 2016, a defense white paper submitted by Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, was approved at a cabinet meeting on Aug. 2. Unlike the paper for 2015, this year’s version included information on the reason for the U.S. military’s presence in Okinawa, saying, “The geographical location of the island is close to a potential disputed region [the Senkaku Islands], but at the same time still distant enough not to heighten military tension unnecessarily.” In this way, the paper mentioned the geographical superiority of Okinawa. Besides the information on Okinawa, the defense paper gave consideration to the defense of the Senkaku Islands by including such information as the establishment of the Coast Observation Unit of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) on Yonaguni Island, the formation of the 9th Air Wing of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) in Okinawa, and the plan to deploy a GSDF unit to the Sakishima Islands.


Concerning the newly added phrase, “a potential disputed region,” Nakatani explained in a press conference after the cabinet meeting on the same day, “We thought it was necessary to clarify Okinawa’s geographical superiority for the public.”


Regarding the issue of relocating the Futenma airfield to Henoko, the paper first referred to the lawsuits and settlement between the national and prefectural governments, as well as the deliberations by the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council. The paper went on to say, “In order to gain understanding from the Okinawa government, the administration will patiently address the issue by carefully explaining the administration’s plans for Henoko to the prefectural government.” As for the U.S. military’s MV-22 Osprey, the paper claimed it is safer than the CH-46 helicopter by comparing the functions of the two aircraft models using drawings.


With regard to the buildup of SDF units in Okinawa, the paper emphasized the importance of SDF deployment to the island as it did last year. Meanwhile, a column titled “The Defense Enhancement of the Southwest Region” was newly added to the paper. The column mentioned scheduled deployments of GSDF security units to the islands of Amami, Miyako, and Ishigaki, saying, “The units will swiftly respond to various contingencies including natural disasters.” The column introduced the views of a GSDF member assigned to Camp Yonaguni, who referred to the SDF support when Typhoon No. 21 hit the area last year, emphasizing the necessity of the SDF deployment from the standpoint of relief operations.


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