Japan puts unarmed missiles on Pacific island gateway
Agence France-Presse in Tokyo
Japan's military is to station four unarmed missiles on an island that sits on the gateway to the Pacific, for a major drill that China will watch closely.
The exercise, aimed at bolstering defence of Japan's southern islands, has already seen a launching system and a loader for Type-88 surface-to-ship missiles installed on Miyako island.
A spokesman for the Joint Staff of the Self Defence Forces said it was the first time missile systems have been taken to Miyako, adding that the missiles could not be fired in their present state.
"The drill is designed for the defence of islands," he said.
The missiles were expected to arrive later yesterday and it was not clear how long they would remain there.
The Self Defence Forces began 18 days of war games on November 1, with 34,000 military personnel, six vessels and 360 aircraft.
The exercise comes amid growing nervousness in Japan and other parts of Asia over China's surging military might, which has seen it expand its naval reach as it squabbles with Tokyo over the ownership of islands in the East China Sea.
It also has separate disputes with numerous countries over competing claims to territories in the South China Sea, which China claims as its own.
The ongoing Japanese drill has irritated Beijing, where local media said there was no doubt it was targeting China.
The Global Times newspaper, which is close to the Communist Party, reported on its front page yesterday that Japan's decision to bring the missiles to Miyako was "an unprecedented move that experts say is targeted at blocking the Chinese navy".
"The missile deployment is mainly set against China and it can pose real threats to the Chinese navy," Li Jie , a naval analyst, told the paper.
Beijing's military, through state media, has accused Tokyo of interfering in Chinese live-fire drills in the Pacific last month, an allegation that Japan denied.