The U.S. military may let Japan’s Self-Defense Forces share its ammunition depots in Okinawa to enhance their operational coordination in defending southwestern islands in the face of China’s increasing maritime assertiveness, Japanese government sources said Saturday.
The idea floated in talks between the two countries is in line with the agreement by their defense and foreign ministers at their meeting in January to promote joint use of military facilities in a chain of islands in Japan’s southwest including Okinawa.
Given that it will be difficult to acquire land to build new SDF facilities in Okinawa already hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, the SDF’s use of U.S. ammunition storehouses would be advantageous in responding to a contingency, the sources said.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki is opposed to such defense facility sharing, saying it would add to local residents’ anxiety. Okinawa residents have long complained of the concentration of U.S. military facilities in their island prefecture.
The East China Sea, bounded by Okinawa’s islands in the east and by Taiwan in the south, has seen increasing assertiveness by China, including in Japanese territorial waters around the uninhibited, Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, claimed by Beijing under the name Diaoyu.