Japan bolsters radar at outlying island as China steps up carrier activity

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View of Japan's Iwo Island. The Yomiuri Shimbun via AFP

Japan’s Defense Ministry is installing upgraded radar on Iwo Island in the Pacific Ocean in order to improve the country’s air defense across an area that includes the Izu and Ogasawara islands, according to a report in the Mainichi Shimbun.

The new fixed warning and control radar equipment is said to be a response to increased Chinese aircraft carrier and other military activity in the Western Pacific, where Iwo Island is situated.

The ministry reportedly aims to strengthen training and other functions tied to the upgrade beginning in fiscal 2018. The reinforced radar system will start operating by fiscal 2020.

The Mainichi noted that until recently, the defense capabilities of the region that includes the Izu, Ogasawara and other nearby islands have been somewhat lax when compared to the Nansei islands including Okinawa, which are closer to the main area where China is increasing its naval activity.

“However, the Japanese government has decided to introduce advanced radar in response to the Chinese military’s recent moves to start operating aircraft carriers and expand the scope of its activities to the West Pacific,” the newspaper reported.

The Ministry of Defense allocated roughly 500 million yen (about US$4.7 million) in its fiscal 2017 supplementary budget to cover upgrades of functions of training-focused radar. The money is set to go toward adding satellite communication systems and tools for wireless communication with Self-Defense Forces jets, the Mainichi said.

China has been increasing its air and naval activity in the Western Pacific. It is also conducting large-scale naval exercises in the South China Sea that involve the Liaoning, the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s first operational aircraft carrier. The carrier recently passed near Taiwan on its way to the drills, which are still taking place.

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