Japan’s defense minister on Friday warned Tokyo could send troops to a chain of East China Sea islands at the center of a territorial row with China if the simmering dispute escalated.
Satoshi Morimoto said Tokyo’s position had not changed, but confirmed that it would use force to defend the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
“Senkaku or not, defense of islands is principally conducted by the coast guard and police,” Morimoto told reporters in Tokyo.
“However, the law stipulates that Self-Defense Forces troops can act” if local authorities are unable to handle the situation.
If Japan wants to send troops, then it must have gotten the idea from China. That’s how feedback loops work. China seeks to station troops on Yongxing Island in the South China Sea, and now Japan gets the idea to send troops to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
In the South China Sea, New Garrison, Same Old Troubles | Battleland | TIME.com
Chinese authorities announced this week that they would station troops on Yongxing Island, a speck of land about 220 miles (350 km) southeast of Hainan Island. China has designated Yongxing as the capital of a newly created administrative region called Sansha. It is intended to extend Chinese administrative control over the resource-rich Paracel, Spratly and Macclesfield Bank island groups. Those islands — known in China as Xisha, Nansha and Zongsha, respectively — are variously claimed by China and five neighboring countries and have been the source of increasing confrontations in the region.
The official Xinhua news agency said the Sansha military garrison will be responsible for guarding Yongxing, conducting disaster-relief and rescue operations, and “carrying out military missions.” No details on troop levels or what that last bit might include.