China-Japan relations

Japan boosts island radar surveillance to catch Chinese, North Korean ships

Tokyo has set aside 280 million yen for the first three facilities, which can locate ships up to 50km away

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 11:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 8:44pm

Japan will install advanced radar systems and remote-controlled surveillance cameras on some of the nation’s remote islands to give advanced warning of Chinese ships operating close to or within Japanese waters around islands in the East China Sea.

As well as providing a new information on foreign vessels approaching the islands the monitoring equipment will also warn the Japan Coast Guard of North Korean fishing vessels illegally operating in Japanese waters.

Under the fiscal 2017 supplementary budget, announced on February 1, the government has set aside 280 million yen (US$2.54 million) for the first three radar facilities, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. Two are to be constructed on islands off Kagoshima Prefecture, in southern Japan, while the third will be erected in Nishinoshima Island, off the southwestern coast of the Sea of Japan, of East Sea.

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Neither location is near the disputed Senkakus islands, claimed by China as the Diaoyu islands. However, the coastguard is expected to expand its placements to include islands in Okinawa, which are closer to the disputed region and would be able to monitor movements.

There have been numerous reports of North Korean fishermen found operating in Japanese waters in the Kagoshima region and locals have said squid and other traditional catches are significantly down on previous years. They have reported seeing North Korean fishermen using outlawed drift nets, while coastguard officials last year reported being threatened by a North Korean fishing boat crewman armed with a machine gun.

The government plans to build a further 20 surveillance stations in the coming years, with the radar able to locate vessels operating up to 50km away. The first site is due to be operational in 2019.