China is building airstrips on islands less than 200 miles from the contested Japanese Senkaku Islands, according to a report in Kyodo News.
Citing unnamed Chinese sources, the news agency reported that several landing strips have been built on Nanji island, buttressing existing radar installations on the island.
“It’s a strategically important location because of its proximity to the Diaoyu Islands, it can provide support to the East China Sea air defense zone, and it’s a major naval point on the Chinese coastal defense lines,” Li Jie, a senior researcher from the Chinese Naval Research Institute told Bloomberg.
“It’s unarguable that China would like to enhance the existing military presence there.”
The new base would be in easy reach of the Senkaku Islands — the contested chain near Taiwan the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands — and could easily support air interdictions as part of the controversial East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The base — as Bloomberg pointed out — is also closer to the Senkaku’s than U.S. bases in Okinawa.
One former People’s Liberation Army general said the expansion was expected and normal.
“China has military bases in several strategically important coastal islands and the Nanji is one of them,” Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general and senior adviser at Beijing-based research group the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association told Bloomberg.
“The Japanese media is only singling out the Nanji and making a big fuss, this can be misleading.”