Japanese island holds disaster drill in shadow of Taiwan threat

Japanese island holds disaster drill in shadow of Taiwan threat

Japan conducted a tsunami evacuation drill on its westernmost island, Yonaguni, which could also serve as preparation for a potential emergency related to China’s attempt to take control of Taiwan. The exercise involved approximately 200 island officials and members of Japan’s military, the Self-Defence Force (SDF). However, due to strong winds, SDF helicopters and landing craft from ships were unable to participate. The mayor of Yonaguni, Kenichi Itokazu, emphasized the importance of planning for the worst-case scenario during the drill’s commencement at the island’s town hall. Japan is susceptible to earthquake-triggered tsunamis, as demonstrated by the devastating 2011 event that claimed nearly 20,000 lives on the northeast coast of Honshu, the main island.

Despite being a disaster drill, the Yonaguni official responsible for preparing the island’s residents, Koji Sugama, highlighted the need for the community to be prepared for potential conflicts as well. Sugama stated that the exercise not only served as disaster preparedness but also provided valuable insights applicable to a Taiwan emergency. Yonaguni is located just 110 km (68 miles) from Taiwan, and China’s firing of missiles into nearby waters in response to a visit by the former U.S. House speaker to Taiwan in August last year underscores the proximity and tension between the two regions. China claims Taiwan as its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to assert control.

Growing concerns over China’s increased military activities and the potential influence of Russia’s attack on Ukraine in emboldening China to take action against Taiwan prompted Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to announce a plan to double defense spending over the next five years. In light of these circumstances, approximately 180 Yonaguni residents gathered at the island’s only junior high school to observe the first evacuation drill in four years. Troops stationed at an island army camp, established in 2016 to strengthen Japan’s island outposts, provided lunch and foot baths for the participants. The exercise aimed to enhance preparedness and response capabilities in the face of potential disasters and conflicts.

The article was written by Tim Kelly and edited by Robert Birsel. It adheres to the Thomson RushHourDaily Trust Principles.

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