The government panel that was convened last year to study Japan’s defense posture has written its report, and one of the many interesting conclusions it has come to is that the outer islands, scene of so much drama last Spring, need to be defended.

Earlier this year, Japanese warships followed Chinese naval flotillas, including submarines, that were sailing in international waters between southern Japanese islands — an act perceived as provocative by Tokyo.

China responded to the surveillance by buzzing the Japanese ships with helicopters in close fly-bys, sparking diplomatic protests from Japan.

The draft recommendation proposes that Japan’s Self-Defence Forces no longer be evenly deployed throughout the country, but that more forces be shifted to southern islands near those Chinese naval routes, the reports said.

Japan’s southern defenses pretty much stop at Okinawa. There are a few radar installations, such as the one on Miyakojima, but no permanently stationed combat forces anywhere else in the Ryukyus, or the Senkakus for that matter. These island chains receive visits from P-3 Orion aircraft on a daily basis and destroyers patrol the area, but otherwise the islands are totally undefended.

Some observations:

1. How exactly would these islands, specifically the Ryukyus and Senkakus, be defended? A number of problems would beset the SDF, from a lack of fresh water on the smallest to congestion and an aversion to a further military presence on the larger islands (read: Okinawa.) Would SDF units be limited to air and sea surveillance, or have the ability to resist an armed landing?

2. As Japan should know more than any other country, defending islands does not work. Islands are isolated by an aggressor and then overwhelming military power is brought to bear against them. Okinawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Guam, Tarawa, Guadlcanal, Makin Island…the list goes on and on. Once America had air and sea superiority, not a single amphibious operation failed. How is this different now? If an invading amphibious task force wanted to take, say, Yonaguni island, how does Japan stop them?

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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