Did you know that Japan is not responsible for defending all airspace over Japanese territory? Me neither.

According to this article, Japan and Taiwan share responsibility for the air defense of Yonaguni Island. Yonaguni is the westernmost island in Japan, with a population of 1,800. The United States, which administered the Ryuku Islands (including Okinawa) for decades, split responsibility for air defense of the island–which is only 110 kilometers east of Taiwan–giving Taiwan the western half, and the U.S. the eastern half. When the Ryukus, including Yonaguni Island, were returned to Japan, Japan was responsible for the eastern half. Japan is now requesting total responsibility for the air defense of the island.

Taiwan sounds open to the idea:

A deputy spokesman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, James Chang, said on Thursday that Taiwan is still considering the issue. He said that his ministry has brought up the topic with other related government agencies and that they will announce their decision.

One of Taiwan’s deputy defense ministers, Chao Shih-chang, said on Thursday that the issue will not affect Taiwan’s national security interests.

This article defines what that entails a little better:

An ADIZ differs from a flight information zone in that any aircraft using the airspace needs to obtain advance approval of due authority. Unapproved flights can be viewed as an incursion.

One more article with a few more tidbits:

According to knowledgeable sources, the Republic of China and Japanese governments have had a tacit agreement all along regarding the ADIL. ROC Air Force planes have always avoided approaching the line during training exercises. Air Force officials also confirmed that whenever ROC aircraft fly near the zone, the control tower on Yonaguni reminds the pilots to make sure not to enter Japanese air space by mistake.

The sources noted that as the ADIZ demarcation issue involves issues of national sovereignty, (Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in handling the matter is paying particularly close attention to avoiding giving the international community the wrong impression that Taiwan’s sovereignty is facing a setback.

It sounds like if Taiwan approves, it would essentially be an extension of Japanese airspace.

Taiwan, which has been somewhat unserious about its defense in recent years, should welcome the move. Anything that decreases its air defense area of responsibility is a good thing, especially when the territory isn’t even Taiwanese.

Japan is starting to get serious about defending the Ryukyu Islands, something reflected in the 2010 defense budget and other documents. The government is talking about beefing up naval forces in the area and also purchasing more helicopters to enable the Ground Self Defense Force to island-hop. More on this later when I have time.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch