Japan started construction work on Thursday for a Self-Defence Forces base on an uninhabited island in a southwestern prefecture, the Japanese Defence Ministry said, as part of a plan to relocate military drills using US carrier-borne fighter jets.
According to the Japanese Kyodo News Agency, in the work expected to last four years on Mage Island in Kagoshima, the ministry will first build runways and ammunition storage facilities, according to an environmental assessment report made public earlier in the day. The project will pave the way for the relocation of the practice site for US fighter jets from Iwoto Island in the Pacific, about 1,250 kilometres south of Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Thursday the new base will be "indispensable" for US aircraft carriers to constantly operate in the Asia-Pacific region.
After Washington asked Tokyo to prepare a more convenient and permanent location for the drills, Mage Island, located about 400 km south of Iwakuni, became a candidate site under the US military realignment accord between Japan and the United States in 2011.
Foreign and defence officials from both countries agreed that China's rising power poses the "biggest strategic challenge" in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Both sides also promised to strengthen deterrence and expand the scope of their security treaty into space.