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U.K. defense cuts fuel Falklands debate

Japan to send troops to remote isle over China fears: media
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.
by Staff Writers
Stanley, Falkland Islands (UPI) Nov 11, 2010
British defense cuts have fueled a furious debate over the security of the Falkland Islands, target of an unsuccessful takeover bid by Argentina in 1982 and still claimed by Buenos Aires as Argentine territory.

Despite denials by London and the Falkland Islands government that military cutbacks expose the islands' vulnerability to attack, protests over the cuts by retired British senior officers continue to reverberate, causing potential embarrassment to both British government and Falkland Islands' local administration.

The Falklands are a British overseas territory that Britain defended against an Argentine invasion in 1982. A 74-day conflict cost more than 1,000 lives and ended with formal surrender by Argentine forces sent for the attack by a military junta that ruled the country.

Renewed Argentine calls for its sovereignty claims to be considered led to British defense reinforcements and expansion of military facilities on the islands and increased supplies of British arms and ammunition to the Falklands government forces.

Despite that assistance, financially strapped Britain initiated huge cuts in defense spending, including the planned scrapping of aircraft carrier Ark Royal and a review of the deployment of Harriet jets.

This week, a group of former high-ranking British military officers called for a government reversal of the decision to scrap the Ark Royal and a fleet of Harrier jets.

In a letter to The Times of London, the former officers said the defense cuts will leave the Falkland Islands open to attack and called a decision to do away with the Harrier jets defending the islands "financially perverse."

But both British and Falklands governments contested the case.

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said dismantling of the Harrier feet wouldn't "impact upon our ability to defend territories in the South Atlantic."

Fox told The Times, "We maintain a wide range of assets, not least a well-defended airfield to ensure the defense of the Falkland Islands.

"The Harrier force has made an impressive contribution to our nation's security over the decades but difficult decisions had to be made ... and I'm clear that rationalizing our fast jet fleet makes both operational and economic common sense," he said.

The protest letter said British Prime Minister David Cameroon was badly advised over the decision to scrap the Harrier force and the Ark Royal and to rely entirely upon Tornadoes. They say the Harrier was more versatile than the Tornado and will be cheaper to maintain.

"The existing Tornado force will cost, over 10 years, seven times as much to keep in service as Harrier. Was the recent exercise not supposed to save money?" the admirals asked.

The decision will leave the Falklands open to attack after the cutbacks and would be a costly one, said the admirals. The islands' North Falkland Basin is being studied for lucrative hydrocarbons reserves.

They admirals wrote: "In respect of the newly valuable Falklands and their oilfields, because of these and other cuts, for the next 10 years at least, Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss of Singapore. One from which British prestige, let alone the administration in power at the time, might never recover, said the letter, which was signed by admiral Alan West, a former First Sea Lord, Julian Oswald, Vice Admiral Jeremy Blackham, Vice Admiral John Mcanally and Maj. Gen. Julian Thompson.

"The decision to ax the entire Harrier force is strategically and financially perverse," the letter said. "The government has, in effect, declared a new '10-year rule' that assumes Britain will have warning time to rebuild to face a threat."

It recalled the last Treasury-driven "10-year rule" in the 1930s nearly cost Britain freedom when faced with Adolf Hitler in Germany.

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