TOKYO — Japan has doubled the number of F-15 fighter jets deployed on the southern island of Okinawa, near disputed islands in the East China Sea, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.
Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force now has about 40 F-15s on Okinawa’s Naha base, according to the Defense Ministry.
The move comes as Japan and China have routinely clashed over ownership of the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Japan administers the uninhabited islands under that name but China also claims them and calls them the Diaoyus.
Chinese ships — mostly coast guard vessels — and aircraft have approached them to back up Beijing’s claims and test Japan’s response.
“This is a very front line of national defense,” said Deputy Defense Minister Kenji Wakamiya, quoted by Jiji Press, at the Sunday ceremony at the Naha base to mark the creation of a new unit composed of the extra jets.
The Defense Ministry moved about 20 F-15s from the Tsuiki base in the southwestern island of Kyushu to Naha, the Defense Ministry said.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.