China: Japan purchases Mageshima on East China Sea

The Japanese government has purchased an uninhabited island valued at 16 billion yen ($AU215 million) on the East China Sea, in response to growing threats from Beijing.

Mageshima, an 8.2sq km block of land on the Osumi Islands between Kyushi and Okinawa prefecture, hosted an important airfield for the Japanese military in the closing stages of World War II.

“It’s important to secure the site for field carrier landing practice from the viewpoint of security so we will continue to try to build a permanent facility at an early date,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said of the agreement.

The purchase from Tokyo-based developer Taston Airport will be used to set up a military base in response to growing threats from Beijing, including in the South China Sea.

The purchase follows pressure from Washington to Tokyo to find a location for US aircraft carriers and their fighter jets to carry out military drills.

It’s unlikely the move would be well-received in China.”/>
media_cameraThe purchase will be used to set up a military base in response to growing threats from Beijing.

While relations between the two countries have improved in recent years, Tokyo remains concerned by Beijing’s growing military might and increasing territorial pursuits in the South and East China Seas.

The East China Sea is a disputed region situated in the middle of China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which is believed to hold valuable natural resources.

In 1995, China discovered an undersea natural gas field in the region, which the disputing countries believe could connect to other natural resources.

The East China Sea has caused controversy for several years. China’s vessels have repeatedly sailed into disputed waters, angering the opposing nation.

In June this year, an armed Chinese aircraft carrier sailed between Okinawa and Miyako Island. While it did not enter Japanese waters, it was seen as an act of aggression on Beijing’s part.

China’s state media agencies have not directly criticised the purchase, but they did note the decision to build a new SDF base on the island has been met with “staunch criticism” from residents of the neighbouring Tanegashima Island, describing the aircraft as “accident-prone”.

Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda hailed the government’s announcement as a “big step forward”.

“Building a permanent training facility is necessary to reduce worries among local (Iwakuni) people,” he said. “We’d like to ask the government to have the facility completed early.”

Originally published as $215m purchase will infuriate China

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