Japanese magazine mulls invasion of Dokdo/Takeshima islands
Scenario for how forces could take islets is certain to trigger anger in S Korea
A Japanese weekly news magazine has envisaged how Japan's armed forces could go about invading and occupying disputed islands that are presently controlled by South Korea.
The provocative article is printed in the latest edition of the Asahi Geino magazine. It quotes military experts as saying that Japan's military is more than capable of carrying out the invasion and that it could be completed in "a matter of hours".
Despite South Korea's refusal to cede sovereignty of the two rocky islets of Dokdo to Japan - which refers to them as Takeshima - the invasion scenario is highly unlikely. The four-page article, however, is certain to trigger anger in South Korea.
The article points out that South Korea has three times more military personnel than Japan, but defence analyst Motoaki Kamiura told the magazine that a lightning-fast attack by special forces using helicopters would overpower the South Korean police unit presently charged with defending the islands.
A large-scale conventional landing from warships would be difficult because the islands are steep-sided rocky outcrops with only one man-made concrete wharf, although small units could get ashore in inflatable craft.
Kenjiro Kato, another analyst interviewed by the magazine, said any such assault would require Japan to mobilise its entire armed forces, although he was also confident that the outcome would be in Japan's favour.
"The first priority would be to deny the enemy the opportunity to deploy its reinforcements," he said. "The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) is far superior in quality to the South Korean navy and it would be able to seize the initiative."
Under the plan outlined in the magazine, the MSDF could effectively cordon off the island of Ulleungdo, some 87 kilometres to the west, and the nearest South Korean territory with port facilities. This could be done with Japan's fleet of advanced submarines, which are superior to South Korea's smaller coastal vessels.
Japan's navy is also equipped with six state-of-the-art Aegis missile destroyers, while South Korea can only put three to sea.
Assessing the threat posed by Korea's 20 F-15K fighters, Mitsuhiro Sera said that while the aircraft were superior to those at Japan's disposal, they were limited in number. "Japanese pilots are also more skilled," he said. "And as Japan already has early-warning aircraft, it has the ability to respond quickly to any threat from the air."
The analysts commented on the likely impact of a prolonged conflict. Mitsuhiro Sera pointed out that Japan would have to concentrate its forces on the coast facing the Korean peninsula. Seoul, with a belligerent and unpredictable neighbour to the north, would be in a tactically trickier position, he said. "Korea would have to shift the majority of its forces to the south and away from the Demilitarised Zone," he said, concluding that: "War is not in the interests of either side."
A Japanese invasion of Dokdo is considered extremely unlikely. It is a departure for the mainstream media here to openly discuss the use of the nation's military in an offensive capacity.
- South Korea has returned a protest letter from Japan's prime minister without answering it, further angering Tokyo amid a bitter row over the islands. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's letter was returned because it could be used by Tokyo to strengthen its territorial claim, Seoul's foreign ministry said. The letter, addressed to South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, had been kept at the South's embassy.