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China Wary as Japan Unveils First Marine Unit Since World War II

Tensions have regularly flared between China and Japan over the islands in the East China Sea, including in 2017 when three Chinese Coast Guard ships sailed near to the islands, sparking a diplomatic war of words.

PTI

Updated:April 9, 2018, 9:16 PM IST
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China Wary as Japan Unveils First Marine Unit Since World War II
Maj. Gen. Shinichi Aoki, commander of Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF)'s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, Japan's first marine unit since World War Two, attends a news conference after activating the brigade at JGSDF's Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, on the southwest island of Kyushu, Japan April 7, 2018. (Image: Reuters/Issei Kato)
Beijing/Tokyo: China on Monday reacted warily to Japan establishing a new amphibious special unit, saying Tokyo's military moves were being followed closely by its Asian neighbours "for historical reasons."

Japan and China have a long history of territorial disputes over islands in the East China Sea, in particular a rocky, uninhabited island chain known as the Diaoyu Islands in Beijing and the Senkaku in Tokyo.

The Japanese Self Defense Force debuted their newly formed Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) on Saturday, at a military display near Sasebo, on the southwestern tip of Kyushu Island. About 1,500 members of the new unit conducted a public exercise, camouflaged with khaki stripes, imitating recapturing a Japanese island from an invading army.

The unit gives Japan its first marine troops since World War II. In an editorial, Chinese state media tabloid Global Times said Asia needed to watch Japan's "militarism revival." "Some question if the Japanese government may consider using safeguarding territorial integrity as an excuse to revive militarism, to which regional countries must stay on high alert," the article said on Sunday.

Tensions have regularly flared between China and Japan over the islands in the East China Sea, including in 2017 when three Chinese Coast Guard ships sailed near to the islands, sparking a diplomatic war of words. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Monday said that Japan's military moves were being followed closely by their Asian neighbours "for historical reasons."

Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have been strained since the end of the Second World War, stemming from Japan's wartime occupation of mainland China. The new Japanese unit was announced by Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera at the Ministry of Defense on March 31, who said it would be composed of about 2,100 personnel.

Split into two amphibious deployment regiments, the unit is equipped with amphibious vehicles and will continue training with US military forces, CNN quoted a Japan Self Defense Forces press release as saying. The Chinese government has repeatedly said it would be prepared to defend the islands claimed by Beijing in the East China Sea if they were taken by force.

On March 31, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang called on Japan to "adopt a correct historical view" after the government approved a series of education textbooks labelling the Senkaku Islands as undisputed Japanese territory.

"China resolutely defends its territorial sovereignty and any attempt to infringe upon China's sovereignty over Diaoyu Islands will be futile," Lu said according to state-run Xinhua news agency. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long sought to change his country's pacifist constitution, adopted after World War II, to allow Japan to maintain armed forces.

Currently Japan has a military known as the Self-Defense Forces, but the constitution bars it from "the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." But Japan's military revival is controversial in the Asian region, particularly in China and South Korea, due to deep sensitivities about the country's role in World War II.

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| Edited by: Tarun Bhardwaj
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