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Japan to send troops to remote isle over China fears: media

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 11, 2010
Tokyo will send around 100 soldiers to a remote Japanese island in the East China Sea, a report said Thursday, amid growing anxiety over China's naval activities.

The ground troops will be deployed on Yonaguni island, Japan's westernmost point, to carry out coastal patrols and surveillance of Chinese naval vessels, Jiji news agency quoted defence officials as saying.

Tokyo eventually plans to double the number of troops stationed on Yonaguni, which is roughly 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Taiwan, the report said.

Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa Thursday stressed the importance of boosting defence in island areas, including Yonaguni, to a security committee meeting at the House of Representatives, Jiji reported.

The defence ministry has applied for 30 million yen (365,000 dollars) from next year's budget for "preparatory research" on the issue, it said.

The Japanese military regularly sends patrol aircraft to the region but has no permanent monitoring facility on Yonaguni, a remote but populated rocky outcrop.

Increased Chinese naval activity has sparked a defence rethink in which Japan has mulled sending more forces to its scattered southern islands and away from Cold War-era bases in the north near Russia.

In an incident in April this year, a large Chinese flotilla approached a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea and sent out a helicopter that buzzed Japanese navy ships monitoring their movement.

The area is a frequent flashpoint for troubles between Japan and China.

Ties have been badly strained since Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain near the disputed island chain in September, sparking a barrage of protests from Beijing.

China's increased assertiveness, particularly in the South China Sea, has also caused jitters among other neighbouring nations as well as the United States, which is also at odds with China over trade and currency issues.



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