TOKYO – Japan plans to send troops to its southernmost islands to better monitor Chinese activity near islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing, a top business daily reported Sunday.
Tokyo will send 100 members of the Ground Self-Defense Force, Japan's equivalent of the army, to Yonaguni in Okinawa prefecture as early as 2014, The Nikkei reported.
The troops will use radar and other communications equipment to monitor the moves of Chinese ships and planes in the area and strengthen defense in the region, the report said.
Tensions between Tokyo and Beijing spiked recently over the disputed islands in the East China Sea called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, which are surrounded by rich fishing grounds. A Sept. 7 collision between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese coast guard vessels set off nationalistic protests in both countries and led to a diplomatic spat.
Japan is also considering later sending border patrol officers to other nearby islands, the report said without citing sources, as is common with Japanese media reports.
Japan currently does not have troops on Yonaguni and placing them on an island that is closer to China, Taiwan and the disputed islands could become a contentious issue.
Government offices were closed Sunday, and Defense Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.