Yonaguni in Google Maps

Yonaguni island, that tiny island of 1,800 Japanese citizens and the westernmost of all Japanese islands (only 110 kilometers from Taiwan) is entirely undefended. That’s right, aside from a police force, there is zero military presence on the island. Yonaguni wants to change all of that, though.

“We’ve constantly asked the national government to deploy troops. We’ll welcome it if the national government allocates funds from its state budget for that purpose,” Mayor Shukichi Hokama replied.

“There is no organization on the island that defends the country. Is it all right that the security situation on an island on a national boundary remains so loose?” a high-ranking official of the municipal government stated.

However, the mayor admits that is not the true reason why Yonaguni is calling for deployment of GSDF troops.

“We rarely think about deterring China. Our goal is to revitalize the island. The SDF is a kind of industry,” Hokama said. (Link)


Hokama isn’t really thinking about national security, he’s thinking about paychecks! On an island of 1,800 people, adding just 100 more would be a significant boost to the local economy. Add to that necessary infrastructure improvements to support a garrison, many of which would likely benefit the entire island, and adding even a small SDF force would make big changes to Yonaguni.

What’s interesting is that the DPJ Defense Minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, has apparently changed his mind on stationing troops on Yonaguni.

When he assumed the post in September 2009, Kitazawa expressed reluctance to deploy troops to the island on the grounds that it would provoke “a neighboring country,” an apparent reference to China.

However, he changed his mind after inspecting the island in March this year, and decided to seek to deploy troops to the island to counter China’s military buildup.

So, it’s all coming together. It’s going to happen. What kind of force the SDF would base on Yonaguni is not known. There was money in the 2010 defense budget for the procurement of helicopters to move SDF troops around in the Ryukyus, but that was pretty much the extent of the description. Air defense units are pretty much a given.

I will say one thing about the DPJ and security issues: at least they’re willing to learn and change their positions. Hatoyama originally was against having Futenma relocated on Okinawa but changed his mind. (Of course, that was based on information that he should have known in the first place, but credit where credit’s due.)

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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 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch