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Defense Ministry to improve radar equipment on Iwo Island amid China's advances

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Defense is set to place fixed warning and control radar equipment on Iwo Island in the Pacific Ocean in order to bolster Japan's air defense capabilities across an area that includes the Izu and Ogasawara islands, it has emerged.

    Specifically, the ministry aims to strengthen the functions of its training-focused radar equipment within a three-year period starting in fiscal 2018, and to start using the reinforced radar by fiscal 2020.

    Until recently, the defense capabilities of the region comprising the Izu, Ogasawara and other nearby islands was somewhat lax compared to the Nansei islands including Okinawa, which are closer to China and its military advancement.

    However, the Japanese government has decided to introduce advanced radar in response to the Chinese military's recent moves to start operating aircraft carriers and expand the scope of its activities to the West Pacific.

    The Ministry of Defense allocated roughly 500 million yen (about $4.7 million) in its fiscal 2017 supplementary budget, to cover upgrades of functions of training-focused radar. The money is set to go toward adding satellite communication systems and tools for wireless communication with Self-Defense Forces jets.

    Since the days of the Cold War, the Pacific Ocean was regarded as a region that fell under the U.S.'s sphere of influence, and therefore, Japan was lax in terms of its defense of the Izu and Ogasawara islands and surrounding area.

    Yet in recent years, Chinese military vessels and aircraft are speeding up their advancement in the Western Pacific Ocean. In December 2016, China's first aircraft carrier "Liaoning" advanced across the Pacific Ocean.

    The Ministry of Defense also plans to modernize radar systems on the Pacific side of Japan's main Honshu island.

    (Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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