TOKYO (AP) — Japan's deputy defense minister met with the mayor of a southern island Thursday to seek his support for a planned deployment of hundreds of troops to bolster defense in the region including nearby disputed East China Sea islands.
Vice Minister of Defense Kenji Wakamiya was in Ishigaki to explain to mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama a plan to deploy about 500 ground troops on the island beginning in 2019, ministry officials said. The troops would belong to units for emergency response in case of infiltration on nearby islands or for missile defense.
Ishigaki has jurisdiction over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyu islands.
Japan has stepped up defense readiness, especially on islands in the country's southwestern region, amid a Chinese military buildup and its aggressive patrols near the disputed islands. China, as well as North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons ambitions, top Japan's security concerns.
Japan is already constructing a base on another nearby tiny island of Yonaguni to deploy 150 coastal monitoring troops, and plans to deploy hundreds more each on Miyako and Amamioshima islands by 2018.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's hawkish government enacted a set of security laws in September despite widespread opposition from the public who say the move violates Japan's war-renouncing constitution.