Warplanes: Japan Turns South


November 3, 2006: Since World War II, Japan has built up its air defenses, and most of it was directed towards Russia. Japans most advanced radars and electronic intelligence (listening to foreign transmissions and analyzing them) systems were in the north. That is changing. Japan is building search radars and electronic intelligence facilities on the Miyako islands, which are 1,800 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. These islands are also 180 kilometers east of the disputed (between China, Taiwan and Japan) Senkaku islands. The Senkakus are eight uninhabited islands, which in the past were only used occasionally by fishermen. The Senkakus are 220 kilometers from Taiwan, 360 kilometers from China and 360 kilometers from Okinawa (which is part of Japan). Japan's claim is the strongest, having first been formally made in 1895. The United States took control of the islands after World War II, and used some of them for bombing practice. Japan continued to claim ownership when, in the 1970s, the possibility of oil deposits in the area caused China and Taiwan to make claims as well. The new Japanese radar facility on Miyako will make it easier for Japan to assert control over the Senkakus if there is ever a military confrontation with China. The new radar also provides early warning of any Chinese military moves against Okinawa or southern Japan.


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