The Japanese government has decided on a plan to develop land-to-sea missiles with a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) to protect the nation’s isolated islands, including the Senkaku, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.
Costs for development will be part of the defense ministry’s budgetary request for the fiscal year ending March 2018, according to the Yomiuri. The government will aim for deployment around the year ending March 2024, it said.
China has been stepping up pressure on Japan over the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are called Diaoyu in Chinese. Hundreds of fishing boats and more than a dozen coastguard vessels have been spotted recently in the area, encroaching at times on what Japan sees as its territorial waters. Any escalation in the long-running dispute between Asia’s two largest economies over the uninhabited islands raises the risk of an unintended military clash.
Ties between the major trading partners suffered a sharp deterioration in 2012 when Japan bought three of the East China Sea islands from a private landlord, but tensions receded several years into the administrations of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China’s President Xi Jinping. China had also been focused primarily on separate territorial disputes it has in the South China Sea.
The friction comes ahead of the September Group of 20 summit in China, where there has been talk of a potential meeting between Xi and Abe.