US Marines will be dispersed around the Okinawa Islands, armed with anti-ship missiles and drones to keep the Chinese Navy at bay. After reforming its military, Japan will play a more active role alongside the United States. However, it is unlikely that countries like the Philippines and Indonesia will allow the deployment of new US littoral regiments.
Rome (AsiaNews) – The United States is changing its military strategy to contain China's geopolitical rise in the Western Pacific. This turning point is giving Japan an increasingly important role, especially in the defence of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
In his meeting today at the White House with Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to seal an agreement to boost the security cooperation between the two countries, as agreed on Wednesday by their respective foreign and defence ministers.
Last month, Japan announced that it would equip itself with the means to counterattack enemy bases in the event of an emergency thanks to a significant increase in military spending. Critics warn that this decision violates the country's post-1945 pacifist Constitution; for the government, it is instead a "minimum measure of self-defence" in the face of threats from China and North Korea. Kishida plans to double the military budget to 2 per cent of GDP in five years.
For its part, the Pentagon has confirmed that it wants to create a new Marine Littoral Regiment by 2025 deploying 2,000 troops to the Okinawa Islands, in Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
Lightly equipped, they will be able to move quickly from island to island. With anti-ship missiles and drones, their task will be to keep Chinese naval forces at bay, imprisoning them within the East China Sea.
All this gives Washington time to strengthen its Navy in the face of the Chinese naval build-up.
The Okinawa Islands lie about 100 kilometres from Taiwanese territory. In response to the visit to Taiwan in August 2022 by Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the US House of Representatives, China conducted missile exercises northeast of Taiwan, in an area that overlaps Japan's exclusive economic zone, near the Sakishima Islands. Two of these, Yonaguni and Miyako, host bases of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces, while surface-to-air and anti-ship missile systems are under construction in a third, Ishigaki.
Japan fears that if Taiwan falls into China's hands, its shipping lanes will be threatened. The US is instead required by bilateral agreements to defend Taiwan, which Beijing considers a "rebel" province to be taken by force if necessary.
According to Chinese military strategist Guodong Chen, the US decision to change the deployment of its forces in Japan, arming them with anti-ship missiles and drones, goes in the "correct” strategic direction.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the expert, whose studies on the use of missile forces to retake Taiwan are used by the Chinese military, notes that whether a military plan “is good or bad depends on whether the opponent's plan is better.” In this sense, China’s air and naval capabilities still need to be tested in a real conflict.
Critics of the Pentagon's new approach to East Asia warn that to be effective, the Marine Littoral Regiments would have to cover the entire "first island chain", from southern Japan to eastern Indonesia. However, it is doubtful that Indonesia (and the Philippines) will accept the presence of new US Marine forces.