According to Japanese Government sources, an expansion of Japan’s military forces on Okinawa and its associated islands to the Southwest approaching Taiwan is being considered.
Okinawa is already the home of the Ground Self-Defence Force’s (GSDF) 15th Brigade which would then be increased from one to two infantry regiments. The Brigade would also receive additional support units and personnel while moving the commander’s rank up to general making it equivalent to the commanding general of the U.S. Marine Corps’ III Expeditionary Force based on the island. The 15th Brigade, based in the Okinawa prefectural capital of Naha, is focused on protecting the Nansei Islands chain that stretches southwest from mainland Japan’s Kyushu toward Taiwan.
The 15th Brigade is responsible for the defence of Okinawa Prefecture the southern and western most prefecture in Japan. This includes the further southern islands of Miyako-jima, Tamara, Isikaki, Takeomi and Yonaguni located between the East China and Philippine Seas. Miyako has become a base for GSDF coastal defence missile batteries. Isikaki, which is only 300 km from Taiwan is programmed to receive them in the near future.
The Type 12 Surface to Ship missiles currently have a range of 180-200 km (112 miles) although an upgrade is in development to extend that to 900 km (559 miles). These deployments reflect increasing concerns over the Peoples Republic of China’s activities in the region and activities both toward Taiwan and the Senkakus Islands which Japan claims. As early as 2016, the Defense Ministry had established a coastal surveillance unit on Japan’s westernmost inhabited island of Yonaguni about 100 kilometres from Taiwan.
The 15th Brigade’s current force on Okinawa consists of the 51st Infantry Regiment reinforced by the 15th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment equipped with three Type 3 Chu-SAM surface to air missile. With its supporting armoured reconnaissance, combat engineers, signal. Aviation, and logistics support units plus those forward deployed on the outer islands the additional projected reinforcements will increase the GSDF presence in the Prefecture to that nearing Division strength. These new deployments are in concert with Japan’s most recent National Security Strategy framework documents which are anticipated to be released shortly.
by Stephen W. Miller