China: Japan purchases Mageshima on East China Sea
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 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.
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.
In 1995, China discovered an undersea natural gas field in the region, which the disputing countries believe could connect to other natural resources.
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