VP Biden in Japan – Supports Japan – ‘Deeply concerned’ over China’s Air Defense Identification Zone

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a carefully calibrated show of support for Japan on Tuesday, declaring the United States was “deeply concerned” about China’s move to control airspace contested with Japan. But he stopped short of demanding that China retreat, and urged the feuding neighbors to talk to each other.

Mr. Biden’s statement, at the start of an unexpectedly challenging trip to Asia that includes a stop in Beijing, captured the strategic complexities for the United States in the tense showdown between Japan and China over disputed claims in the East China Sea.

China, Mr. Biden said, was trying to “unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea,” with an air defense identification zone that he said “raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation.” He said he would raise the American concerns in detail when he meets with the Chinese leadership on Wednesday.

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China scrambles jets in air zone to monitor US and Japanese planes

China says it scrambled fighter jets to monitor US and Japanese planes as they flew in its newly declared air defence zone in the East China Sea on Friday.

The zone covers territory claimed by China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

China said last week that all aircraft crossing through the zone must file flight plans and identify themselves or face “defensive emergency measures”.

The US, Japan and South Korea say they have since defied the ruling and flown military aircraft in the area.


Read the rest of the story: BBC News – China scrambles jets in air zone to monitor US and Japanese planes.

Japan SDF to Carry Wider Range of Arms Overseas

The Japanese government decided Friday to allow Self-Defense Forces troops engaging in emergency ground transportation of Japanese nationals abroad to carry a wider range of arms than previously permitted.

The move came after the Diet, the country’s parliament, passed a bill earlier this month to allow the SDF to use vehicles as a means of transporting Japanese during emergencies abroad in addition to aircraft and ships.


SDF and US Joint Search Turn Up 20 More Bodies

The Self-Defense Forces, the U.S. military and other rescue workers recovered 20 bodies Saturday as their three-day intensive search for the missing in tsunami-hit coastal areas of Tohoku continued.

During two days of searching by some 18,000 SDF personnel and about 7,000 U.S. military personnel, as well as members of the police, the Japan Coast Guard and fire departments, the total number of bodies recovered stands at 53.

The bulk of Saturday’s operation was held in and around Ishinomaki, one of the worst-affected cities in Miyagi Prefecture. A search was conducted around an elementary school where many pupils were reported missing after the tsunami, while some 50 divers from the SDF, the Japan Coast Guard and other entities were deployed to nearby Kitakami River, the largest in northeastern Japan.

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Japan’s Troop Plan for Yonaguni Isle Divides Residents

YONAGUNI ISLAND, Japan — This remote island in the rough East China Sea is known for its gigantic moths, fiery Okinawan alcohol and an offshore rock formation that some believe to be the submerged ruins of a lost, Atlantis-like civilization.

Yonaguni is closer to Taiwan and China than to Tokyo; many residents would prefer expanded trade over a military base.

Now, Tokyo is drawing up plans to add something else: about 100 soldiers from the Self-Defense Force, Japan’s military.

Yonaguni, with three tiny villages and a small airport, is Japan’s westernmost point, a place from which Taiwan is visible on a clear day. It is also the closest spot of inhabited land to the Senkakus, a small group of uninhabited islets controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan, which call them the Diaoyu Islands.

This put Yonaguni and its 1,600 mostly aging residents uncomfortably close to a bruising diplomatic showdown with Beijing last September over a Chinese trawler detained near the Senkakus, which resulted in Tokyo’s backing down. The government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan has since vowed to beef up defenses for Japan’s “outlying islands,” and it appears close to a decision on the small Yonaguni garrison, a plan that has been under discussion for years.

“China keeps coming, and all we have protecting us now is a pair of pistols,” said Yonaguni’s mayor, Shukichi Hokama, referring to the two policemen who are the island’s only security presence.

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Japan army reservists at ready

Growing up in Japan, Yusuke Tsuge never imagined he’d run around in military fatigues or carry a rifle in a country that has not engaged in armed conflict since its defeat in World War Two.

But on a recent sunny day, Tsuge, a magazine editor, was among 42 Japanese taking part in training to join the military reserve force, in which ordinary people with day jobs stand by to help out the military when it is mobilized to defend the country.

Under a gun-shy, post-war defense policy, Japan has never deployed its reserve force, formed in 1954 and now with a headcount of 39,500.

Even the military, officially called the Self-Defence Forces (SDF), is untested in battle. Japan’s pacifist constitution bans the maintenance of a military, although it has been stretched to allow armed forces for self-defense.

After saluting the national flag following an early morning formation drill, Tsuge and the other trainees, clad in uniforms and green helmets, slung rifles over their shoulders before marching to a field to practice surveillance and capturing enemy soldiers at gunpoint.

As a reservist with no military experience, Tsuge would not take part in front-line defense but could still be called on to guard army posts at home or to transport supplies. He could also be deployed to help the SDF in rescue work for earthquakes, floods and other disasters.

Read the rest of the story: Japan army reservists at ready for gun-shy defense.