TOKYO , April 18 (UPI) -- Japan has sent 100 members of its Self-Defense Force to its westernmost outpost, an island off the coast of Taiwan and 150 kilometers (93 miles) from islands disputed with China, a deployment that could anger China.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera will visit Saturday as a new lookout post and radar base will be constructed on Yonaguni Island. The plan to militarize the island, now home to 1,500 people guarded by two police officers, is part of Japan’s plan to improve the defense of the islands that make up its southern border.
The military position would extend the monitoring of several disputed small islands, claimed by both Japan and China, and track Chinese ships and aircraft in the area.
“We are staunchly determined to protect Yonaguni Island, a part of the precious Japanese territory,” Onodera said earlier this week.
The base should give Japan the ability to expand surveillance near the Chinese mainland, and would allow early detection of missiles and Chinese military movements.
Japan and China have been involved in a round of bravado in the area since Japan nationalized the island in 2012. Japanese fighter jets took to the skies 415 times in the past year after observation of approaching Chinese planes, a figure up 36 percent from the previous year.