The Japanese Defence Ministry is considering initiating deployments of ground based anti aircraft missile systems to the remote island of Yonaguni near Taiwan, with the acquisition of the required equipment included in the ministry’s 2023 budget request. Situated over 2000km away from Tokyo, Yonaguni represents Japan’s westernmost territory and is located little over 60km from the east coast of Taiwan. Many longer ranged missile systems would thus gain coverage over much of Taiwanese territory and be allowed to engage aircraft flying around Taipei should they be deployed there. Taipei is closer to Yonaguni than to the Chinese mainland itself, and the island and nearby Taketomi and Ishigaki are expected to be a key staging grounds for Japanese operations should the country and its Western partners seek to intervene in any future Taiwan Strait conflict.
Plans for new missile deployments follow a decision by the Japanese government on December 16 to approve an updated national security strategy providing for a massive increase in defence spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2027. If seen through, this is expected to make the country the third largest military spender in the world in dollar terms after China and the United States. The move was welcomed by Washington, which has also been concerned by the increasingly favourable balance of power Beijing has benefitted from in the Taiwan Strait, with the United States notably also expected to receive the bulk of contracts to supply Japan’s armed forces over the next decade. Taiwan is internationally recognised as a part of the Beijing based People’s Republic of China, with neither Tokyo nor Washington having formally challenged this status quo. The existence of a separate unrecognised Chinese government in Taipei claiming sovereignty over all Chinese territory is a lasting legacy of the Chinese Civil War which concluded on the Chinese mainland in 1949. The losing Republic of China government which relocated to Taiwan has been preserved by U.S. military protection for over seven decades since, although in the United Nations and internationally it is not recognised as a state actor. Sustaining the separation of Taiwan from the mainland under the unrecognised Republic of China government is widely considered to have become a key foreign policy priority for both Tokyo and Washington.