The Ministry of Defense is now looking at garrisoning troops in the Ryukyu islands chain, including Yonaguni Island,  Miyakojima and other major islands.

In response to such factors as activity by Chinese naval vessels, the ministry is eyeing reinforcing surveillance along Japan’s western border.

The Self-Defense Forces have only a sparse presence in areas to the west of Okinawa’s main island, but the move is likely to draw protests from China and Taiwan because the units would be stationed close to islands disputed by the three sides.

The plan involves deploying in stages several hundred GSDF members in charge of border security to Miyako and Ishigaki islands and about 100 troops for coastal monitoring to Yonaguni Island, the officials said. (Link)

It appears that China’s gunboat diplomacy of late, designed to intimidate the locals, has failed. That’s the problem with authoritarian regimes: when all it takes is a show of force to keep your people in line, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that it would work on others. It doesn’t.

My understanding is that, aside from a radar station on Miyakojima island, there is no permanent SDF presence west of Okinawa. Sure there are P-3C Orion patrols, two or three a day, and destroyers apparently patrol the waters in pairs, but there are apparently zero boots on the ground.

Apparently, Japan already has small garrisons in select border areas.

According to the ministry officials, the border security units considered for dispatch to Miyako and Ishigaki islands are envisioned to be similar to the 300-strong GSDF Tsushima Area Security Force in Nagasaki Prefecture, whose main duties include coastal monitoring and initial response to invasion by armed guerrillas.

The coastal monitoring unit to be sent to Yonaguni Island, Japan’s westernmost territory, will be modeled on the GSDF’s 301st Coast Observation Unit, made up of about 100 personnel, in Wakkanai, Hokkaido.

Hey, I was right about a hundred man garrison for Yonaguni.

I doubt the islands would ever become highly fortified. Japan has an unpleasant history of stationing troops on desolate islands and then agonizing as they are cut off and then starved into submission. This sort of thing can traumatize armed forces (look how the withdrawal of carriers from Guadalcanal is still used to justify U.S. Marine aviation.) Japan’s World War II experience was very different from the West’s and Japan should not be expected to make the same choices other countries would.

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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