In response to Chinese military exercises near its shores last year, Japan is expanding a military base on the island of Yonaguni, located 110 km from Taiwan and near the Senkaku Islands (also known as the Diaoyu Islands) which are claimed by Beijing but administered by Tokyo, as per a report from South China Morning Post. Last August, six Chinese missiles landed in waters near Yonaguni, which Japan considers to be within its exclusive economic zone. This caused alarm among the island’s 1,700 residents, and local fisherman were instructed to remain in port as a precaution.
Despite Japan’s protests, China argued that there was no exclusive economic zone in the waters where the missiles landed as the two nations had not agreed on the limits. Work is currently underway to expand the base for the Japan Self-Defense Forces and deploy a surface-to-air missile unit to the island. Given the presence of Japanese forces and the island’s proximity to Taiwan, it is considered a strategically important location and analysts fear that it would inevitably be targeted in the event of a regional conflict.
Okinawa is home to US forces
The prefecture of Okinawa, where Yonaguni is located, is home to the bulk of US forces stationed in Japan and has large naval and air facilities that would be among the first to respond to a crisis across the Taiwan Strait. In preparation for potential attacks, the local government of Yonaguni established a fund to cover the costs of emergency equipment and facilities for residents, and in November, islanders participated in the first drill simulating a ballistic missile attack. The local authority has also voted in favor of requesting emergency shelters from the national government and a group of council members are planning to meet with the Prime Minister in Tokyo to deliver this request for help.
Meanwhile, Japan’s metropolitan government is also considering protection measures, including the feasibility of using the city’s subway system as a shelter from a nuclear attack. With increasing concerns about North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, Russian air and naval activity in the far north, as well as the threat posed by China, individuals across the country are also exploring the practicality of bomb shelters, with specialist firms reporting an uptick in inquiries and purchases. These developments on the island of Yonaguni reflect growing tensions and fears of military conflicts in the region, as nations continue to strengthen their military presence and prepare for potential threats.