Japan defence chief wants more surveillance in key areas east of islands

By Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan said on Friday that it needed to expand its surveillance activities to cover the Pacific Ocean off its east coast to protect its interests in a zone rich with resources where Chinese naval ships were recently spotted by ministry officials.

Japan's navy and coast guard have concentrated their efforts on the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, off its west coast, where Tokyo is locked in a territorial dispute with Beijing over a group of East China Sea islets.

The islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are located near rich fishing grounds and potentially large oil and gas reserves. Uninhabited, they are administered by Japan and have become a theatre for cat-and-mouse operations by patrol vessels from both sides.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera's comments followed observations by officials in July that Chinese naval vessels were sailing clockwise around Japan's main islands, through the Pacific Ocean, although no vessel entered Japan's territorial waters.

"Japan is the world's sixth-largest country in terms of the surface area of its exclusive economic zone," Onodera told a gathering of academics, journalists and veterans.

"Many resources have recently been found at its bottom, not just oil and gas, but such things as platinum, rare metal and rare earth.

"So far, we have been conducting routine surveillance activities in such areas as the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. When we think about our marine-related interests, we need to conduct surveillance over the Pacific Ocean as well."

As part of its move to fortify activities in the Pacific, the Defence Ministry has requested 450 million yen in its budget appropriation for the year starting April 2014 to build a facility on the remote island of Iwo Jima.

The facility would intercept wireless communications around the island, located east of Okinawa and 1,250 km (775 miles) south of Tokyo.

Onodera restated his ministry's intention to look into the potential use of unmanned drones to bolster surveillance capabilities.

The ministry has sought 200 million yen in the budget request to study the possible introduction of unmanned planes.

Saddled with hefty public debt, Japan had been cutting its defence spending in recent years.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who returned to office last December for a rare second term pledging to stand tough in the islands row, increased this year's defence budget for the first time in 11 years.

In a speech in New York on Wednesday, Abe pointed out Japan's defence budget increase was dwarfed by China's rapid military expansion, and said: "So call me, if you want, a right-wing militarist."

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Ron Popeski)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have been able to purchase batting replacements for the loss of Michael Hussey and spin reinforcements in the form of Samuel Badree. They appear… More »

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »