Japan discovers Chinese ‘pier for warships’ near disputed islands

A Chinese navy ship. © Samrang Pring
China has constructed a vanguard “pier for warships” on an islet off the port city of Wenzhou, Japanese media warned, calling the development a boost of Beijing’s claims on the Tokyo-administered Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands and disputed waters around them.

The new 80-meter-long installation, already dubbed the “pier for warships” by the Japanese media, was allegedly erected on Nanji Island, one of 52 islands in the Nanji chain that are part of China's Zhejiang Province, Kyodo news reports.

Several Chinese military vessels have already been noticed docking on the island, according to the report. Meanwhile The Japan Times’ sources added that the pier is also capable of accommodating landing craft.

China’s military is reportedly building a large military base with complex radar installations in the Nanji chain which lie some 300 kilometers (190 miles) from the islet chain at the center of a territorial row with Japan. The base is designed to enhance China’s readiness to respond to a potential military crisis and strengthen surveillance over an air defense identification zone it declared in the area in 2013.

In addition to the pier, the islands already possess an advanced radar system and a heliport, with plans underway to construct a runway for military use.

The dispute over the East China Sea islets – known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China – remains high. Encounters between ships and planes from the two countries have raised the potential for a confrontation. Earlier this week, the Japanese Coast Guard released a video showing hundreds of Chinese ships allegedly breaching the territory of the disputed waters.

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Meanwhile, Japan is seeking to develop and deploy a land-to-sea missile system designed to enhance defense in the East China Sea.

“Generally speaking, the policy of upgrading capabilities of remote island defense has been authorized in our defense guidelines,” a Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday. “In light of the policy, the ministry is currently in the process of briefing local municipalities of Miyako and Ishigaki of Okinawa and Amami of Kagoshima on the deployment of units for land-to-sea guided missiles.”

On Friday, a source in the Japanese defense ministry told Reuters that Tokyo is seeking a record defense budget of 5.16 trillion yen ($51 billion) for next year, in light of the tensions in the region, which besides Chinese ambitions include a North Korean threat.

Part of the money will be spent on upgrading Japan’s PAC-3 missile defense system and the joint Japanese-US production of the Block IIA version of the Standard Missile-3 system to shoot down missiles at higher altitudes. The money will also be used to strengthen Japanese coast guard near the disputed waters with China, as well as to purchase an upgraded version of the F-35 stealth fighter.