Amid escalating security environment in the wider Asia-Pacific, Japan on Thursday began construction of a new base for the US fighter jets in the country.
“Given the most severe and complicated security environment of the postwar era, the government will build this facility and begin its operation at an early date,” Hirokazu Matsuno, the Japanese government’s top spokesman, told a news conference in Tokyo, calling it “indispensable for the US aircraft carriers to constantly operate in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The new Self-Defense Forces base is being constructed on uninhabited Mage Island in the southwestern province of Kagoshima “to relocate military drills using US carrier-borne fighter jets,” Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported quoting a statement from the country’s Defense Ministry.
The construction work is expected to take four years during which the ministry will build runways and ammunition storage facilities and also pay compensation of around $17 million to local fishermen who will not be able to operate during this period.
“The project will pave the way for the relocation of the practice site for US fighter jets from Iwoto Island in the Pacific, about 1,250 kilometers (776 miles) south of Tokyo, following the construction work on the 8 square km (3 square miles) island,” the report said.
The work on the new air base comes after the two allies decided to station a new Marine unit on Japan's southern island of Okinawa.
“We've decided that the 12th Artillery Regiment would remain in Japan and be reorganized into the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment by 2025,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a news conference with his Japanese counterpart Yasukazu Hamada in Washington on Wednesday, as the US and Japan called China the “greatest” strategic challenge for the two countries.
The US has approximately 50,000 troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact.
The assessment was made during a joint press conference after security talks under the 2+2 format were held between the American and Japanese foreign and defense ministers in the US capital Washington, D.C.
“We agree that the PRC is the greatest shared strategic challenge that we and our allies and partners face,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, referring to the People's Republic of China.