Sunday, June 26, 2011

Japan Adds Spy Bases To Watch China

Defense News


Japan Adds Spy Bases To Watch China


TAIPEI — Japan is building signals intelli­gence (SIGINT) stations along the Ryukyu Island chain to monitor Chinese naval and maritime activities.

“China’s military expansion is conspicuous, and the military balance is changing in the East China Sea,” said Sumihiko Kawamura, a retired rear admiral who is deputy director of the Okazaki Institute, Tokyo. “China has been ramping up moves to expand its maritime in­terests, thereby intensifying friction with Japan.” The interlocking facilities will provide the country’s military with both communications intelligence (COMINT) and electronic intelli­gence (ELINT) capabilities.

China has intensified posturing over its ter­ritorial claims in the area, said Peter Woolley, a Japan defense specialist. Actions include overflights by Chinese surveillance aircraft and maritime intrusions by the Chinese Navy and “rogue fishing vessels,” he said.

“There is bound to be friction over China’s reach,” Woolley said. “It’s just a question of when” China finally goes too far.

Tokyo was rattled earlier this month when 11 Chinese naval vessels passed between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako-jima. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said there was “se­rious concern” over the incident.

“Our country’s policy is to keep monitoring Chinese naval vessels ... and gathering infor­mation,” Kitazawa told reporters June 10.

Kawamura, the retired admiral, said Japan­ese fighter jets were scrambled 96 times last year, two and a half times more than in 2009. “On March 2, Japanese air force intercep­tors were scrambled after two Chinese Y-8 surveillance aircraft were spotted flying over the East China Sea toward the Nansei Islands [Ryukyu Islands] and approaching a point about 50 kilometers from Japanese airspace,” he said.

Tokyo began paying attention to the prob­lem in 2000, when it ordered the military to begin expanding its SIGINT facilities on re­mote isolated islands on its southern flank. Of paramount concern was the possibility that China might attempt to occupy the Japanese­controlled Senkaku Islands, which the Chi­nese call the Diaoyutai Islands. Taiwan also claims the islands.

Masashi Nishihara, the president of the Re­search Institute for Peace and Security, Tokyo, said Japan’s six-month-old National Defense Program Guidelines underlined the need for new SIGINT bases, stressing the im­portance of the defense of remote islands.

Japan’s new Mid-Term Defense Program, which covers 2011 to 2015, also includes the construction of new SIGINT and ELINT sta­tions at existing air force radar stations on Se­buri-yama Mountain on Kyushu Island, Fukue-jima Island and Miyako-jima Island, Kawamura said.

“These sites are favorably situated to check the military activities of China and North Ko­rea in the East China Sea,” he said.

A Western SIGINT specialist identified the location of several of the new facilities, in­cluding an ocean surveillance site on Yona­guni Island, at the southern tip of the Ryukyu chain. This site is to be completed next year. The Yonaguni facility will be networked with other SIGINT and ELINT bases running north along the Ryukyus toward mainland Japan. Yonaguni sits 100 kilometers from Tai­wan’s northeast coast, between the East Chi­na Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and 150 kilo­meters south of the Senkaku Islands.

This facility will work with a J/FLR-4 facili­ty on Miyako-jima Island, 200 kilometers east of the Senkaku Islands. The Miyako-jima fa­cility is “critically important as a forward SIG­INT/ELINT station to check” Chinese naval deployment in the Pacific Ocean, Kawamura said. The J/FLR-4, activated in 2009, is a panoramic very-high-frequency (VHF), ultra­high-frequency and super-high-frequency in­tercept system, the SIGINT specialist said.

To the north of Okinawa is a SIGINT and COMINT station on Kikaijima Island. In oper­ation since 2006, it consists of a large indige­nously designed, circularly disposed antenna array for VHF and high-frequency direction finding, the Western SIGINT analyst said.

Japan also has been concerned about naval movements near the waters separating south­ern mainland Japan and South Korea. In 2007, a J/FLR-4 station became operational on Se­buri-yama Mountain.

Another J/FLR-4 base is under construction on Fukue-jima and is expected to become op­erational next year, the analyst said.

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