Source: Press TV
The United States’ military is reportedly seeking to carry out its first ever missile drill on and around the Japanese Island of Okinawa as part of attempts to contain what Washington sees as China’s growing maritime prowess in the region.
Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported on Thursday that the US military had notified Japan’s that it would station surface-to-ship missiles in the strategically important island this year.
The paper said the drill would also involve the deployment of a mobile rocket launcher as a counter-measure against potential attacks from Chinese surface-to-sea ballistic missiles.
China has repeatedly warned the US against extending its military presence in Asia and the Pacific, describing US military presence as a source of regional instability.
Over the past years, Chinese warships have sailed through waters near Okinawa, where the majority of US troops in Japan are based, in a bid to curb US military dominance as an extra-regional force in the western Pacific.
Japan has in turn used that Chinese military posturing to brandish a perceived threat from China.
Japan’s defense chief last year accused China of “unilaterally escalating” its military activities in the region despite Beijing insisting that the activities were for self-defense against the US threats.
Okinawa is located more than 600 kilometers south of mainland Japan and was the site of a bloody World War II battle that was followed by a 27-year US occupation of the island. The US has, however, insisted to keep a heavy presence on the Island due to its strategic position facing Asia, positioning half of its approximately 47,000-strong Japan force there.
The planned deployment to Okinawa comes as the island’s residents have already been complaining about the US military presence there. Protests against the US base have been going on for around nine years as Okinawans are angry about crime linked to American forces as well as the noise and health hazards associated with the military hardware.
Washington and Tokyo agreed in 1996 to relocate the US Marines’ Futenma base — currently located in the heavily-populated town of Ginowan — to the remote coastal area of Henoko in Nago.
But many residents want the base and the US military off their land altogether.
Multiple cases of misconduct by US forces, including several rape cases and the rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman in 2016, have raised anti-American sentiment among the pacifist islanders.