Editorial: Missile defense unit on Okinawa’s main island is an overreaction that invites danger

February 20, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo

The progressing militarization of the Ryukyu Islands is a dangerous plan. It should not even be worth considering.
The Japanese government is currently considering deploying a surface-to-ship missile defense unit on Honto, the main Okinawan island. They are also progressing a deployment of a security forces as well as surface-to-air, and surface-to-ship missile defense units totaling approximately 700-800 people, to Miakojima, Okinawa.

Based on the current situation where Chinese naval vessels occasionally pass through the neutral waters between Honto and Miyako Island, the government has decided to more forcefully restrain China. We have grave doubts about this plan.
The deployment of missile defense units to the main island and Miyako Island will only result in increased tensions with China. The stronghold will be seen as a sign of aggression, and will only put the region in danger. The entirety of this plan to deploy these missile units capable of striking China must be withdrawn.

Waters outside of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which starts 12 nautical miles from each country’s shores and extends to 200, are neutral waters. This is based on the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea adopted and ratified by Japan in 1982.

The treaty stipulates the “principle of freedom of the seas,” wherein each country cannot claim international waters as their territory, and may use it freely as long as they give consideration to other countries.

Treating the Chinese naval vessels that pass through these neutral waters as hostile is a clear violation of the “principle of freedom of the seas.” It can only stagnate the relationship between Japan and China.

The deployment plan the Japanese government is considering involves missiles with a striking range somewhere between 100-200 km. Honto and Miyako Island are around 300km apart. The idea is, since you cannot cover the area from Miyako Island alone, placing missiles on both Miyako Island and Honto would allow Japan to cover the entire area. The plan is far too dangerous.

In a public hearing for the Diet Lower House Military Committee, U.S. Pacific Command’s Commander Harry B. Harris indicated that the Chinese-controlled Spraty Islands in the South China Sea contain “seven new military installations,” comprising of landing strips and radar installations over a span of 3,000 meters.

Harris also indicated the possibility of China deploying high-capacity defense equipment in the future, and said that China’s growing naval power is a grave warning sign.

China’s militarization in the South China Sea is intolerable. However, matching military with more military is simply foolish.

In 2016, the Japan Ground Self Defense Forces’ (JGSDF) coastal surveillance unit was permanently installed on Yonaguni Island. Now, in addition to Miyako and Ishigaki Islands, the Minister of Defense wants to install security forces, missile defense units, and surface-to-air missiles for aerial defense on Amami Island.

Adding to this the deployment of missiles to the main island, this plan will turn the Ryukyu Islands into a giant target.
Since November of 2008, Chinese naval traffic between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Island has been becoming increasingly regular. However, since they are passing through neutral waters, this does not infringe upon international law. We fear that an overreaction to this will invite greater danger.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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