For the past two weeks, Japan has dispatched airplanes and ships to the western Pacific Ocean to keep a close eye on the Liaoning aircraft carrier.
The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and five other ships headed westward from the East China Sea on December 16 through the waters between Okinawa and Miyakojima, Japan’s Ministry of Defense announced today.
The agency reports that the Liaoning aircraft carrier conducted more than 300 takeoffs and landings with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters before returning on the same path on January 1. To date, Tokyo has not received any reports of incursions into Japanese airspace or territorial waters.
China’s military exercises follow Japan’s announcement on December 16 of its highest defence expenditure since World War II to address “a range of security issues.”
Documents approved by the Japanese cabinet on the same day describe China as “the greatest ever strategic challenge to Japan’s assurance of peace and stability.”
Japan’s Defense Ministry said it also detected a Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) WZ-7 flying close to Miyakojima island on January 1 and 2. This is the first time Tokyo has detected this type of high-altitude UAV in the area.
On January 1, the WZ-7 flew from the East China Sea through the southern islands of Japan to the Pacific Ocean. The drone turned south of Miyakojima Island and returned to mainland China. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force dispatched aircraft to respond, but the drone did not enter Japanese airspace.
Just recently, Japan announced the deployment of an anti-aircraft missile unit to the westernmost island of Yonaguni, about 110 kilometers from Taiwan, to bolster its defense capabilities.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense on December 27 announced plans to expand the garrison base on Yonaguni island and deploy an anti-aircraft missile unit there in 2023. The agency also announced the purchase of 18 hectares of land on the island. To deploy military works, including weapons storage, but did not disclose the cost.
“We will limit the risk of our country being attacked by enhancing our deterrence power and ability to respond to raids in the southwestern region,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Kenji Aoki.
Yonaguni Island is located in the westernmost part of Japan’s territory, about 110-150 km from Taiwan and the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu island group.
A Chinese ballistic missile once landed in waters about 80 kilometers northwest of Yonaguni Island during Beijing’s large-scale drills in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.