New military base on uninhabited Japan island for US aircraft carriers

TOKYO, 12 Jan 2023:

Japan today began construction work on a new base for its self-defence forces on the uninhabited island of Mage, southwest of the archipelago, as part of a plan to relocate the joint naval and maritime exercises with the US.

The Japanese government confirmed today is the scheduled date of work commencing on the island in the Kagoshima prefecture, which will house the new military facility considered “indispensable” for US aircraft carrier operations in the Asia-Pacific, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.

“Given the most severe and complicated security environment of the postwar era, the government will build this facility and begin its operation at an early date,” Matsuno, who is the government’s main spokesperson, said in a presser.

The work is expected to last around four years, during which the government would offer compensation to the local fishing industry for being deprived of its economic activities.

Mage, spread over around 8 sq km, will house runways, hangars and ports that could be used for drills by the US fighter jets and aircraft carriers – which are currently held at the island of Iwoto or Iwojima, about 1,250km south of Tokyo.

Although Tokyo and Washington had first agreed in 2011 to relocate certain American military assets and drills on the archipelago, the process of approval by local authorities for constructing the new base in Mage have been accelerated in the context of growing tensions in the region.

In a meeting between their foreign and defence ministers in Washington yesterday, the US and Japan agreed to expand their military cooperation in view of the “challenge” posed by China’s foreign policy in the Pacific.

As part of the agreement, the US pledged to reorganise the 12 marine regiments currently deployed on the Japanese island of Okinawa into a “Marine Littoral Regiment” by 2025.

US defense secretary Llyod Austin said in a presser after meeting his Japanese counterpart that the new regiment would be equipped with additional military capabilities, such as anti-ship missiles.

Matsuno today said this decision was aimed at strengthening measures amid an “increasingly complex” security situation in the region.