A set of joint U.S.-Japanese military exercises known as “Keen Sword” that have been staged primarily in the Nansei Islands since Nov. 10 is scheduled to finish today, Nov. 19.
The exercises not only involved Okinawa’s Japan Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military bases, but also private port facilities such as Nakagusuku Port and Yonaguni Airport along with large numbers of wheeled vehicles and materials that were brought in.
At Yonaguni, close to Taiwan, Japan Self-Defense Forces Type 16 maneuver combat vehicles equipped with 105 millimeter guns drove along public roads that are essential thoroughfares for local residents and entered the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces military garrison at Yonaguni.
The appearance of military vehicles coming and going, with materials is reminiscent of the Battle of Okinawa, and stirred up fear that the island was being transformed into a battle zone.
Over the years, the fortification of Nansei Islands with missiles has been most conspicuous.
The JSDF, in response to China’s maritime advances, is deploying ground-to-ship missile forces in the Nansei Islands and continuing to fortify the region.
These drills also involve exercises for the deployment of ground-to-ship missiles in preparation for an emergency.
The joint U.S.-Japan exercises, with China’s maritime advances in mind, are being staged in the Nansei Islands at such a scale and in such a way possibly for the first time since Okinawa was returned to Japan.
The fortification of the Nansei Islands and the unification of the U.S. and Japan is progressing quickly, and we must assess this trend as one that will change the character of the Okinawan military base problem at its roots.
It is concerning that the mood of Japanese society is steadily becoming more hard line due to the Taiwan crisis, and there is widening public opinion that functional enhancements to military bases are inevitable to confront the threat from China.
The fundamental doubts that have surfaced throughout these latest U.S.-Japanese joint exercises concern how noncombatants and civilians would be evacuated in an emergency, or whether or not they would be rescued.
U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea expect an emergency in the Korean Peninsula and are conducting noncombatant evacuation operation drills to rescue U.S. citizens residing in South Korea.
Okinawa prefecture is formulating a Civil Protection Plan, based on the Civil Protection Law. The focal points of the policy initiative account for such distinctive elements as a “tragic ground war,” an “island prefecture,” and a “concentration of U.S. military bases.” [Note: could not find direct translations, these are my translations]
When and how should citizens be evacuated to protect their lives? There is a strong possibility that missile fortifications, in the event of an emergency, will trigger missile attacks from enemy nations. After all, the notion of what constitutes an emergency in Taiwan remains unclear.
There have been a succession of Japan-South Korea, U.S.-China and Japan-China leadership summits.
What are the differences between the claims that have been made? How are they incompatible? What common issues can we tackle?
It is important for fellow leaders to meet face-to-face and search for common advantage. We especially hope leaders will pursue diplomacy that will not escalate antagonism.
The reality is that plans to substantially extend the range of ground-to-ship missiles are in progress and there is inadequate discussion about “enemy base strike capability” at the risk of snuffing out any nonaggressive defense policy like a candle in the wind. This kind of situation is particularly precarious.
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