Asia-Pacific’s top US commander visits closest SDF base to China

20-May-2017 Intellasia | Asahi | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Adm. Harry Harris, the top US commander in Asia and the Pacific, visited the Ground Self-Defense Forces’ Camp Yonaguni here on Japan’s westernmost island–less than 150 kilometers from Taiwan–for the first time on May 17.

Harris was escorted on the island by Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff of the Joint Staff, the SDF’s most senior officer, according to the Defense Ministry.

The visit occurred just hours after Harris gave a public lecture in Tokyo, in which he said the United States would defend the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, about 150 km north from the camp, if any country sought to breach Japan’s sovereignty there.

It was the first time for a top US commander in the Asia-Pacific region to visit the camp, which was set up in March 2016 to provide heightened security over the waters that border China and Taiwan, including the Senkakus.

“(The US commander’s) visit to the Yonaguni camp sends out a message that we are monitoring China’s expansion in the East China Sea that has been active more than ever,” said a core member of the Defense Ministry.

The Yonaguni camp is the SDFs’ westernmost base, with 160 officers stationed to strengthen defense of remote islands off Kyushu and southwestern islands, such as the Senkakus and others in Okinawa.

The water and airspace near the camp are under surveillance and guard 24/7.

At Harris’s lecture that day, he said the United States recognises Japan’s administrative control over the Senkaku Islands and that it “will defend these islands” in accordance with the US-Japan Security Treaty.

He also spoke at length about North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programmes, and said every test launch is taking “North Korea one step closer to being able to deliver a nuclear-tipped missile anywhere in the world.”

He cautioned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of military prowess “should provide all of us (allied nations) with a sense of urgency to address this problem now.”


Category: Japan

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