The Japanese government is buying an uninhabited island in the East China Sea to set up a military base in response to growing threats from China. Mage Island, has been acquired by the Japanese government for JPY16 billion (USD146 million) and is expected to host US carrier-based aircraft as well as the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) exercises. It had previously been touted as a rocket launch site and a storage facility for spent fuel from nuclear reactors.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a press conference that Tokyo has reached an agreement in principle to buy the 8-square-kilometre island from a private company at a cost of about JPY16 billion (USD146 million), mainly to enable field carrier landing practice (FCLP) for the US Navy (USN). The acquisition of Mage Island is vitally important to maintaining and strengthening the deterrence of the US-Japanese alliance and to build up Japan nation’s defence capabilities.
The U.S. used to conduct takeoff and landing practice at Atsugi air base in Kanagawa Prefecture, but the training site was moved to Iwo Jima in the 1990s on a temporary basis due to complaints about noise. The fighters were all transferred further south from Atsugi to another U.S. base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, last year, making the flight to the island even longer. As a result, the United States asked Japan to prepare a more convenient and permanent location for the drill. Mage Island is about 400 km from Iwakuni, while Iwo Jima is 1,400 km away.