Japan’s Defense Ministry has put up its budget request for next year and it will ask for $99 million to set up a garrison at Ishigaki Island. Ishigaki Island also known as Ishigakijima, is a Japanese island south-west of Okinawa Honto and the second-largest island of the Yaeyama Island group. Ishigaki Island, like the rest of Okinawa, is culturally influenced by both Japan and Taiwan due to its location, about 300 km (186 mi) off the north eastern coast of Taiwan. Due to Japan’s increased focus on grey-zone challenges, Ishigaki Port has been expanded so more than a dozen large (over 1,000 tons) Japan Coast Guard ships can be stationed there.
Tokyo plans to counter China’s moves by extending the range of its missiles. The Type 12 Surface-to-Ship Missile is a truck-mounted anti-ship missile developed by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2012. The weapon is networked, where initial and mid-course targeting can be provided by other platforms, reduced lifecycle costs, and a range of 200 km. The Type 03 Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (Chu-SAM) is a Japanese developed surface-to-air missile system currently in service with the Japan Army as Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. The SAM’s vehicle chassis is based on the Kato Works Ltd/Mitsubishi Heavy Industries NK series heavy crane truck.
Tokyo has currently earmarked ¥21.2 billion yen (US$205 million) in FY2021 to build new patrol boats and buy helicopters for the region, with plans to assign 22 ships of over 1,000 tons (including the 3 Tsugarus, a Kunigami, and a Hateruma class patrol vessel based in Naha) in the region by 2024. Tokyo has also bulked up the JCG presence on Miyako-jima between Ishigaki and Naha with nine Shimoji-class small patrol vessels and a Tokara-class medium patrol vessel. The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) are also considering deploying short range anti-ship missiles (possibly the Type 96 Multi-Purpose Missile System) on the island.
Located 400 km (249 mi) southwest of Okinawa Island and 259 km (161 mi) east of Keelung, Ishigaki serves as a gateway to the Yaeyama Islands. These reinforcements are mostly in relation to the Japanese uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which lie 170 km (106 mi) north of Ishigaki and are under the control of the mayor of Ishigaki, which has been given civic authority over the territory since the Senkaku Islands reverted from the US to the Japanese government control in 1972. China (People’s Republic of China) and Taiwan (Republic Of China) have challenged Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands since 1972, with more intensity since 2012.