Japan deploys armed units to southwestern islands, likely to trigger backlash from locals

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-26 18:45:00|Editor: Xiaoxia
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TOKYO, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Tuesday deployed two Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) units to islands in the county's southwest, in part to purportedly bolster its disaster response capabilities in a move likely to upset locals.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told a press briefing that the new deployment was concerned with issues of disaster response preparedness.

The new units along with local authorities will now be able to deal with natural disasters swiftly, Iwaya said.

A 400-member unit has been deployed to Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture, with an inauguration ceremony held for the brigade on the island, which lies about 300 km southwest of the main island of Okinawa.

Tomofusa Harada, head of the 15th Brigade, was quoted as saying that he wants the personnel there to cooperate effectively and be able to respond to any situation quickly.

On Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, about 400 km south of the southwestern main island of Kyushu, a GSDF missile unit comprising 550 personnel was set up.

Iwaya also said the the defense ministry is planning to establish another unit on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, about 100 km southwest of Miyako Island.

The latest moves by the defense ministry will likely draw the ire of and trigger a backlash from the people and prefectural officials of Okinawa, who have been relentlessly campaigning for decades to have their military-linked burdens eased.

Okinawa already hosts the majority of U.S. military bases in Japan and the addition of more Japanese troops and facilities will likely intensify local indignation to the central government's plans to increase military resources there.

In a prefecture-wide referendum in Okinawa, more than 70 percent of eligible voters said they were opposed to the building of a replacement facility for a controversial U.S. airbase, with demonstrations held Monday by local citizens calling for the base to be moved out of Japan and their military-linked burdens lifted.

Calls are becoming more vociferous from Okinawans for its postwar occupation by U.S. forces to be completely ended, as Okinawa's control under the U.S. ended in 1972.

Local citizens living on the subtropical island attest to it feeling as though their occupation is continuing with no end in sight, now underscored by Japanese forces beefing up their presence and potentially threatening peace and security in the region.