TOKYO May 1 Japan will conduct a military
exercise this month to practice defending an island, the Defence
Ministry said on Thursday, underscoring concern about East China
Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
The dispute over the islands, called the Senkaku in Japan
and Diaoyu in China, has raised fears of a clash between the
Asian neighbours which could even drag in the United States.
Separately, China said on Wednesday it would carry out naval
exercises with Russia in the East China Sea in what it called a
bid to deepen military cooperation.
Japan's Defence Ministry said the island defence exercise
would run from May 10 to May 27 on a small uninhabited island in
the Ryukyu chain, some 600 km (375 miles) northeast of the
Some parts of the exercise will be held in southwestern
Japan's Nagasaki prefecture and waters off Okinawa Island's east
coast. Okinawa is home is a major U.S. military base and Japan
also bases forces there.
It will be the first time that Japan's military, known as
the Self-Defence Forces, will use an actual island for island
defence training involving its ground, air and maritime
About 1,300 troops, as well as several fighter jets and
destroyers, will practice landing on and retaking the island,
the ministry said.
But it said the exercise was not a response to the tension
"Boosting island defence is something that has been
mentioned in the defence white paper in recent years. This is
not a drill that is responding to the current security situation
surrounding Japan," a ministry spokesman said.
U.S. President Barack Obama said last month while on a visit
to Japan that the disputed islands were covered by a U.S.-Japan
security treaty, angering China.
Last month, Japan announced it would break ground on a radar
base in the area, on a tropical Japanese island close to Taiwan.
The radar station on Yonaguni Island, just 150 km (93 miles)
from the disputed islands in the East China Sea, marks Japan's
first military expansion at the western end of its island chain
in more than 40 years.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel)