Fears Japan's Okinawa will become a front line again

Reuters -- May 13
Japan's Okinawa is set to mark 50 years since the United States ended its occupation, but there are renewed fears the East China Sea island chain will become a battlefield again.

Every Thursday, a small group of protesters gather outside Japan's newest army base to demand its closure.

This patch of land, on the tiny island of Miyako, in the country's south, was once a golf course.

Now, it's equipped with missile launchers which are meant to target Chinese ships sailing in and out of the Western Pacific.

The island is one of the Okinawa islands and sits less than 250 miles from Taiwan and 125 miles from uninhabited islands in the East China Sea,

It's considered a vital military outpost but some locals fear it could become a target for China.

"These are small islands. Building up a military base will not protect them, but rather make them a target of attacks as I explained earlier. So I don't think this (deploying troops here) will lead to peace."

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has added to those concerns, with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warning of the fragility of security in Asia.

Japan is set to revise its national security strategy this year and that could mean committing more money to defence including missiles that can hit targets on foreign soil.

China, which spends almost five times as much on defence as Japan, says it intentions in the region are peaceful.

Still - the island's base commander, Colonel Masakazu Iyota, is calling for more reinforcements.

There's also pressure on Okinawa to let military planes use an airport on Shimoji island.