The rift between arch-rivals China and Japan is set to widen with military analysts in Beijing lambasting Japan’s deployment of a US-made Patriot missile defense system at Miyako Island, which lies close to Taiwan.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced in a press conference on May 8 that Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force had stationed PAC-3 ground-to-air guided missiles at its Miyako Island facility in Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture.
This is believed to be a crucial strategic hub in the “first island chain” close to Taiwan.
Besides the Miyakojima deployment, Matsuno informed the press that Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force had deployed the PAC-3 missiles at the Ishigaki and Yonaguni islands.
On his part, Matsuno clarified that the Patriot missiles target potential long-range ballistic missile launches from North Korea.
North Korea launched ballistic missiles purported to be artificial satellites, and the projectiles flew over areas near these three islands twice – in 2012 and later in 2016.
However, Chinese analysts have fiercely criticized the deployment, as reported by the state-owned Global Times.
The analysts said, “is yet another Japanese attempt to interfere in the Taiwan question,” while emphasizing that Taiwanese media had noted that the deployment locations are closer to Taiwan than North Korea.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) frequently sends warplanes and warships between the island of Taiwan and Yonaguni Island in routine patrols and drills encircling the island of Taiwan and through the Miyako Strait into the West Pacific for far sea exercises.
China’s military drills have also seen a significant shift, with the PLA troops focusing on practicing an invasion of Taiwan by encircling it and cutting it off from any “external interference.”
In August last year, China fired multiple missiles toward waters near northeastern and southwestern Taiwan as part of its unprecedented live-fire drills conducted in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
China’s increased aggression and “grey zone tactics” against Taiwan have forced the island state to bolster its air defenses.
Taiwan’s air defense predominantly comprises the Skybow III and Patriot missiles deployed to the northern part of the state in February this year. However, with China pulling one military stunt after another in the Taiwan Strait, Japan’s deployment of a PAC battery close to the island is viewed as a positive deployment by Taiwanese media.
Faced with a looming Chinese threat, the island nation hopes the missile defense system might intercept Chinese missiles flying toward it.
In a recent report, the Taiwanese media outlet ‘Taiwan News’ stated, “These southern Japanese islands are closer to Taiwan than North Korea. This raises questions about whether the deployment could also be designed to intercept Chinese missiles.”
It highlighted that while Yilan County in northeast Taiwan is only 362 kilometers away from Miyako Island, Kaesong, the southernmost metropolis of North Korea, is 1,459 kilometers away. Although Japanese or Taiwanese officials have not supported such theories, Chinese analysts are brimming with suspicion.
A military specialist in Beijing, Wei Dongxu, told Global Times that Japan’s deployment of Patriot missiles in its southwest islands has nothing to do with the distant Korean Peninsula.
The expert added that it is a very aggressive action directed at China because its true goal is to outfit the islands with anti-air and anti-ship missiles and get ready for military intervention in the Taiwan issue.
Wei advised China to strengthen its defenses against future military intrusion attempts from outside forces in retaliation. This development comes just days after the PAC-3 Patriot missile defense system did a spectacular job in Ukraine as it intercepted and shot down a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile.
China Wary Of Russian Experience With The Patriots?
Ukraine has become a testing ground for the modern military equipment arriving in Kyiv from its allies in the West, especially the United States. China, on its part, has been keenly watching the combat performance of the Western military equipment against Russia’s formidable military force.
Ever since Russia unleashed a barrage of ballistic and cruise missiles on Ukraine, wreaking havoc on the embattled country last year, officials in Kyiv had been pleading for the PAC-3 Patriot missile defense systems that can shoot down the super-maneuverable ballistic missiles.
Finally, these systems were delivered to Ukraine in April, after which they were reportedly deployed in the capital city of Kyiv. Earlier this month, the PAC-3 stunned the Ukrainian and Russian troops as it intercepted and shot down a Russian hypersonic missile. Hypersonic missiles are believed to be capable of penetrating air defense systems due to their speed and unpredictable flight path.
“Yes, we shot down the ‘unique’ Kinzhal,” Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk said on Telegram, referring to a Kh-47 missile, which flies at ten times the speed of sound. “It happened during the nighttime attack on May 4 in the skies of the Kyiv region.”
Fired by MiG-31, the Kinzhal could reach speeds greater than Mach 10 and travel 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers while carrying a conventional or nuclear payload. However, despite its invincibility, as glorified by Russian officials ever since the weapon was inducted, it was unraveled by the US Patriot.
“A hypersonic missile, a ‘super weapon’ that Putin has been boasting about for many years. He showed cartoons to the whole world and said that ‘we can overcome any air defense system,’ but no.
“It turned out that the Patriots could shoot down Kinzhals. So goodbye, invincible weapon, I would say so,” Ukrainian military expert, Oleg Zhdanov, said of the direct clash between the Patriot air defense system and Kinzhal missile.
The deployment of a PAC-3 Patriot missile defense system near Taiwan could thus be even more unnerving for China. The American system has become a thorn in the flesh of its adversaries, Russia and China.
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