2024年4月9日火曜日

JAPAN EYES UPGRADE ATLEAST OF 16 AIRPORTS AND PORTS FOR POSSIBLE DEFENSE USE

JAPAN EYES UPGRADE ATLEAST OF 16 AIRPORTS AND PORTS FOR POSSIBLE DEFENSE USE

@Jackie San

Japan plans to upgrade five airports and 11 ports, designating them for use by the country's defense forces and coast guard in case of military emergencies, a government source said Wednesday, with concerns lingering over China's maritime assertiveness and a potential conflict over Taiwan.


Nearly half of the 16 commercial facilities, which include Naha and Nagasaki airports, are located either in Okinawa Prefecture or the southwestern main island of Kyushu, apparently reflecting Japan's efforts to beef up defense around its far-flung southwest islands.


The plan is expected to be approved soon at a meeting of related ministers, paving the way for the project to commence in the next fiscal year starting April. An allocation of 35 billion yen is anticipated for the first year.


Longer runways and aprons are expected to be built at the designated airports for use by fighter jets and transport aircraft. Ports will need docks that can accommodate destroyers and other large ships.


The Japanese government stipulated in its National Security Strategy endorsed in 2022 the need to enhance the functions of public infrastructure, such as airports and seaports, so that the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard can better respond to the protection of its nationals and deployment during contingencies.


While the upgrade of the facilities could benefit locals by enabling their use for commercial logistics, tourism, and disaster response, concerns remain that the sites could become targets of armed attacks in contingencies.


The SDF and coast guard will also use the sites to conduct exercises.


Local governments that manage the designated facilities will sign documents with the central government regarding their use by the SDF and the coast guard in routine operations and emergencies.


The five designated airports are located in four prefectures -- Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Miyazaki, as well as Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.


Of the 11 ports, five are in the northern main island of Hokkaido, home to many SDF units, four are in Kagawa and Kochi prefectures in the western main island of Shikoku, and one each in Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures.


In recent years, Japan has been reinforcing the defense capabilities of remote islands in the southwest amid tensions over the Senkaku Islands, a group of Tokyo-controlled uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that China claims and calls Diaoyu.


A contingency over Taiwan, which China views as its own territory, is also concerning for Japan, a U.S. security ally, given the self-ruled island's proximity to Japan's southwestern islands.

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