Defense Ministry eyes permanent troops on Miyako
According to media reports the Japanese Ministry of Defense is considering a plan to permanently deploy several hundred Self Defense Force personnel on Miyako Island.
The island currently has a GSDF radar station with a few dozen troops deployed, and in the past, temporary anti-ship missile units have been deployed there during limited time exercises, but the new plan calls for stationing 500 to 600 personnel permanently on the island. The ministry is reportedly also considering deploying surface-to-air missiles to defend the area.
Miyako Island has currently a population of about 55,000 people including the inhabitants on the near-by islands that are currently connected to the main island by bridges, except the remote Tarama. Besides its commercial airport on the main island, there’s also an airport on nearby Shimoji Island with a 3,000-meter runway that was completed in 1971, and is currently not in use. The airport was long used as a training facility for JAL and All Nippon Airways, and the JASDF has long has had its eyes on it as a base for its fighters due its proximity to the Senkakus.
There have also been proposals to make it an alternative to MCAS Futenma, and the then local Irabu Assembly even made a proposal to that effect to the Defense Agency in 2005. However, the plans sparked strong local protests from time to time, and they have not been realized.
Vice Defense Minister Akira Sato is scheduled visit Miyakojima in May to discuss the plan with local officials and try to gain their backing. The ministry plans to include funding to purchase land and cover the expense of deploying troops to the island in its budget request for the next fiscal year.